Eat Pray Love
EAT PRAY LOVE (L, PG-13):
When successful New York
writer Liz Gilbert's (Julia
Roberts, Duplicity) husband, Stephen
(Billy Crudup, Public Enemies), starts
talking about having kids, Liz has a
meltdown. She cannot sleep and slips
into the bathroom at night to pray to
God, something she has not done very
often. She begs God to tell her what to
do. God tells her to go back to bed.
As she deals with a growing sense of
existential angst, she realizes she does
not want to be married anymore.
She and Stephen divorce. She
takes responsibility for the failure
of the marriage and he takes
her for almost every penny he
Liz decides to take a year off to
discover grace and God: the first
four months in Rome to learn
Italian and savor food; then four
months in India to learn to pray
at a Hindu ashram; and four
months in Indonesia, since a guru
had once told her she would
return and learn about love.
Based on Gilbert's 2006 best-seller,
Eat Pray Love is the story of a woman
who is genuinely seeking grace and
transcendence. When I read the book,
I knew what she was talking about,
especially the middle-of-the-night
moments of uncertainty and darkness.
The film, however, was never able to
reveal the depths of despair that the
book conveyed or the encounters and
revelations of grace that knit her year
The film is written by Ryan Murphy
(Glee) and actress/writer Jennifer Salt;
Murphy also directed. It has a rushed
feeling and too much time is spent laying
the foundational story.
The best part of the film for me was
when Liz meets Richard (Richard Jenkins, The Visitor) at the ashram. He helps
her forgive herself. In turn, Liz encourages
him to reconcile with his family.
Julia Roberts gives a good performance.
Jenkins is authentic and heartfelt.
Liz Gilbert begins the year as a flawed
human being and ends it by giving up
her promise of celibacy and entering a
relationship with Felipe (Javier Bardem,
No Country for Old Men).
This is not a choice practicing Catholics
would make, true. She is still
flawed—and still on a journey. But she
sets aside her navel-gazing inertia and
begins to do something for her neighbor,
such as working to secure housing
for a mother in Indonesia.
The book was better, but the film,
with its beautiful cinematography, offers
the possibility to talk with friends
and family about things that matter,
especially the courage to seek God, recognize
grace and discover meaning in
one's life. Some language, mature themes
GET LOW (not yet rated, PG-13): It is
the 1930s and Felix Bush (Robert
Duvall, Crazy Heart) is a curmudgeon
who has lived like a hermit in the backwoods
of Tennessee for more than three
decades. Now he decides to throw his
own funeral party.
The minister he approaches (Gerald
McRaney, Jericho) doesn't understand.
A young funeral director, Buddy (Lucas
Black, Jarhead), overhears Felix's request,
and he and his opportunistic boss
Frank (Bill Murray, Get Smart)
drive out to ask how they can
Felix offers a raffle for his land,
but he is a mysterious, almost
mythic figure, and people fear
him because of all the stories they
have heard over the years. Felix
then visits a pastor in Indiana,
the Rev. Charlie (Bill Cobbs, Night
at the Museum), who knows his
story. He wants Felix to confess
but Felix resists.
Get Low is a rich, warm story
despite the aspect of mystery and forbidden,
unrequited love and tragedy. It is
a small movie, a parable about truth,
beauty and the art of consummate acting.
Duvall is terrific as the unhappy old
man seeking redemption. The inevitability
of death drives Felix to reveal
himself, but he cannot do it alone; he
needs the community to help him. The
film is ably directed by Aaron Schneider
(Simon Birch), but Duvall is the master.
DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS (L, PG-13): Tim
(Paul Rudd, I Love You, Man) is looking
for a promotion at a finance company
when a colleague is fired. He is happy
about the opportunity for advancement
and makes a presentation that
attracts the attention of the boss, Lance
(Bruce Greenwood, Star Trek), who invites
him to a monthly office dinner.
Everyone is to bring someone with a
special talent so that management can
mock and humiliate them. There will be
a prize for the person who brings the
biggest fool. Tim is not amused but
goes along with it so he can get a raise
and propose to his girlfriend.
Later, Tim literally runs into a man,
Barry (Steve Carell, The Office), who is
trying to rescue a dead mouse from the
road. In fact, Barry is a taxidermist who
dresses dead mice and places them in
dollhouses. Barry attaches himself to
Tim, creating a situation that causes
myriad complications and drives the
Director Jay Roach, of the bawdy
Austin Powers franchise, has delivered a
thoughtful story in Dinner for Schmucks that is based on the French film The
Dinner Game (Le Dines de Con). The
premise for the company's dinner is
hurtful and mean, but at the film's center
are a kind heart and lessons about
genuine relationships to be learned by
all, as innocence and arrogance meet
across the dinner table.
The real schmucks are those who
think they are better than everyone
else and can lord it over others through
ridicule. Barry, though poor in spirit,
lights up the room. Language, some crude
humor, mature themes.
THE BIG C (Showtime, Mondays,
check local listings): In
this dramedy, Emmy Award-winner
Laura Linney is Cathy Jamison,
a wife, mother and teacher, who discovers
she has cancer with a year to live.
She decides to "get her weird back"
and embarks on a year of change. This
is an insightful rendering on death and
dying. It also stars Gabourey Sidibe
(Precious) as an obnoxious student
Cathy sets out to help. Language, mature
themes and situations.
SUMMER TELEVISION: Over the last few
summers, in order to get viewers over
network rerun doldrums and purgatoryfilled
reality shows, stations have provided
an interesting rather than brilliant
lineup of formulaic cop and spy series
(10 to 12 episodes).
From The Closer on TNT in 2005,
with Kyra Sedgwick as a Los Angeles
police chief who can close every case; to
USA's Jeffrey Donovan in Burn Notice; to
Neal Caffrey, played by Matthew Bomer,
as a forcefully reformed art thief turned
FBI consultant in White Collar; to Piper
Perabo as the CIA's Annie Walker in
Covert Affairs; the USA Network gets
the entertainment right and light. In
general, they keep explicit violence and
other bothersome elements low.
Rizzoli & Isles, new on TNT this
year, stars Angie Harmon and Sasha
Alexander. It is a female buddy cop-and-doc show based on the novels of
It is unclear how many of these series
will return next summer, but we can
hope that network primetime will take
note and try to keep up with these lowbudget,
younger siblings on basic cable
that are off and running.
GOD IN AMERICA (PBS, October 11-13):
American Experience and Frontline on
PBS are airing a six-part documentary
on the history and influence of theological
and cultural varieties of Protestantism,
Catholicism and Judaism,
brought to these shores by immigrants,
in shaping America.
The series builds on the premise that,
to understand the United States, one
needs to grasp the influence of religion,
from the Franciscan missionaries
of the Southwest in the 1500s to the
reemergence of conservative religion
and politics in the 1970s.
It is narrated by, among others, actor
Campbell Scott, and features performances
by actors such as Chris Sarandon,
who takes on the role of Abraham
But nontraditional American-born
religious groups (such as Mormons and
Jehovah's Witnesses) are not considered
at all. Islam and Eastern faiths are
explored in the final segment. This is an
intriguing and evocative series worthy