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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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Catherine of Siena: The value Catherine makes central in her short life and which sounds clearly and consistently through her experience is complete surrender to Christ. What is most impressive about her is that she learns to view her surrender to her Lord as a goal to be reached through time. 
<p>She was the 23rd child of Jacopo and Lapa Benincasa and grew up as an intelligent, cheerful and intensely religious person. Catherine disappointed her mother by cutting off her hair as a protest against being overly encouraged to improve her appearance in order to attract a husband. Her father ordered her to be left in peace, and she was given a room of her own for prayer and meditation. </p><p>She entered the Dominican Third Order at 18 and spent the next three years in seclusion, prayer and austerity. Gradually a group of followers gathered around her—men and women, priests and religious. An active public apostolate grew out of her contemplative life. Her letters, mostly for spiritual instruction and encouragement of her followers, began to take more and more note of public affairs. Opposition and slander resulted from her mixing fearlessly with the world and speaking with the candor and authority of one completely committed to Christ. She was cleared of all charges at the Dominican General Chapter of 1374. </p><p>Her public influence reached great heights because of her evident holiness, her membership in the Dominican Third Order, and the deep impression she made on the pope. She worked tirelessly for the crusade against the Turks and for peace between Florence and the pope </p><p>In 1378, the Great Schism began, splitting the allegiance of Christendom between two, then three, popes and putting even saints on opposing sides. Catherine spent the last two years of her life in Rome, in prayer and pleading on behalf of the cause of Urban VI and the unity of the Church. She offered herself as a victim for the Church in its agony. She died surrounded by her "children" and was canonized in 1461. </p><p>Catherine ranks high among the mystics and spiritual writers of the Church. In 1939, she and Francis of Assisi were declared co-patrons of Italy. Paul VI named her and Teresa of Avila doctors of the Church in 1970. Her spiritual testament is found in <i>The Dialogue</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog The gates of hell cannot withstand the power of heaven. Gates of sin melt in the presence of saving grace; gates of death fall in the presence of eternal life; gates of falsehood collapse in the presence of living truth; gates of violence are flattened in the presence of divine love. These are the tools with which Christ has equipped his Church.

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