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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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Maria Goretti: One of the largest crowds ever assembled for a canonization—250,000—symbolized the reaction of millions touched by the simple story of Maria Goretti. 
<p>She was the daughter of a poor Italian tenant farmer, had no chance to go to school, never learned to read or write. When she made her First Communion not long before her death at age 12, she was one of the larger and somewhat backward members of the class. </p><p>On a hot afternoon in July, Maria was sitting at the top of the stairs of her house, mending a shirt. She was not quite 12 years old, but physically mature. A cart stopped outside, and a neighbor, Alessandro, 18 years old, ran up the stairs. He seized her and pulled her into a bedroom. She struggled and tried to call for help. “No, God does not wish it," she cried out. "It is a sin. You would go to hell for it.” Alessandro began striking at her blindly with a long dagger. </p><p>She was taken to a hospital. Her last hours were marked by the usual simple compassion of the good—concern about where her mother would sleep, forgiveness of her murderer (she had been in fear of him, but did not say anything lest she cause trouble to his family) and her devout welcoming of Viaticum, her last Holy Communion. She died about 24 hours after the attack. </p><p>Her murderer was sentenced to 30 years in prison. For a long time he was unrepentant and surly. One night he had a dream or vision of Maria, gathering flowers and offering them to him. His life changed. When he was released after 27 years, his first act was to go to beg the forgiveness of Maria’s mother. </p><p>Devotion to the young martyr grew, miracles were worked, and in less than half a century she was canonized. At her beatification in 1947, her mother (then 82), two sisters and a brother appeared with Pope Pius XII on the balcony of St. Peter’s. Three years later, at her canonization, a 66-year-old Alessandro Serenelli knelt among the quarter-million people and cried tears of joy.</p> American Catholic Blog Lord, may the medals we wear be constant reminders of the lives they depict. While wearing them, may we be blessed through the saints’ intercession and protected from harm. Help us to continue to spread the messages of Jesus and Mary and the saints and angels.

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