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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Eat Pray Love

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Julia Roberts and James Franco star in "Eat Pray Love."
Many of the off-kilter values that characterize contemporary Western society are showcased in "Eat Pray Love" (Columbia), the fact-based narrative of one woman's yearlong globe-trotting quest for enlightenment and self-understanding.

Julia Roberts portrays Liz Gilbert, a New York travel writer in the throes of a midlife crisis. Bored with her husband Stephen (Billy Crudup), she initiates a divorce and, on the rebound, falls for David (James Franco), a much younger actor. Perhaps inevitably, their swiftly consummated affair fizzles, leaving Liz complaining to her happily married best friend, Delia (Viola Davis), that she has lost her appetite for life.

The solution? A 12-month sabbatical from everyday reality during which Liz plans to sample Italian cuisine in Rome, cultivate Hindu spirituality at an ashram in India and see what's offered in Bali, Indonesia.

On the first stage of her journey, Liz develops a circle of laid-back friends who teach her how to enjoy life while scarfing down quantities of pasta, pizza and artichokes. Though she seemingly hits every restaurant in town, she gives the churches a pass, the implication being that she knows better than to look to Catholicism for insight.

So it's off to the subcontinent and the religious establishment run by David's female guru. (The unhealthy atmosphere of semi-idolatrous worship with which this guide is surrounded—first sensed as David and Liz sat in front of a small altar David had erected to her in his apartment—is reinforced by Liz's dialogue with the ashram personnel.)

Liz is too distracted to get anywhere with her meditations until she gains the friendship and aid of a feisty, plainspoken Texan, Richard (an excellent Richard Jenkins). A long-standing visitor to the retreat, Richard is wrestling with the demons of his troubled past.

Returning to Bali, Liz continues her soul tinkering under the guidance of kindly medicine man Ketut (Hadi Subiyanto). And romance comes calling again in the figure of Brazilian expatriate Felipe (Javier Bardem), himself the scarred veteran of a broken marriage.

Besides negating the spiritual resources of Christianity, director and co-writer (with Jennifer Salt) Ryan Murphy's overlong, ultimately exhausting screen version of Elizabeth Gilbert's best-selling 2006 memoir displays an ambivalent attitude toward marriage.

Thus, Stephen's emotionally voiced protest that he has taken vows for life and intends to uphold them is presented as a forlorn attempt to erect obstacles in Liz's way. And, though Liz ostensibly spends much of her time in India trying to come to terms with her feelings of guilt over the break-up, the script has already celebrated the courage it required for her to walk out of the doomed union in search of something better.

The film contains complex religious themes, acceptability of divorce, nonmarital and premarital situations, rear nudity, some sexual humor, an obscene gesture, a few uses of profanity and at least one rough and a half-dozen crude terms. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.





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Jutta of Thuringia: Today's patroness of Prussia began her life amidst luxury and power but died the death of a simple servant of the poor.
<p>In truth, virtue and piety were always of prime importance to Jutta and her husband, both of noble rank. The two were set to make a pilgrimage together to the holy places in Jerusalem, but her husband died on the way. The newly widowed Jutta, after taking care to provide for her children, resolved to live in a manner utterly pleasing to God. She disposed of the costly clothes, jewels and furniture befitting one of her rank, and became a Secular Franciscan, taking on the simple garment of a religious.
</p><p>From that point her life was utterly devoted to others: caring for the sick, particularly lepers; tending to the poor, whom she visited in their hovels; helping the crippled and blind with whom she shared her own home. Many of the townspeople of Thuringia laughed at how the once-distinguished lady now spent all her time. But Jutta saw the face of God in the poor and felt honored to render whatever services she could.
</p><p>About the year 1260, not long before her death, Jutta lived near the non-Christians in eastern Germany. There she built a small hermitage and prayed unceasingly for their conversion. She has been venerated for centuries as the special patron of Prussia.</p> American Catholic Blog The confessional is not the dry-cleaner’s; it is an encounter with Jesus, with that Jesus who is waiting for us, who is waiting for us as we are.

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