Eat Pray Love Blu-ray Review
The movie comes to Region Free US Blu-ray complete with a solid but far from exceptional 1080p High Definition video presentation in the original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 1.85:1. For starters, considering the sumptuous landscapes on offer, it’s a shame they didn’t use a broader aspect ratio – perhaps 2.4:1 – which would have better suited the shots captured by the same Cinematographer who’s worked with Martin Scorsese on some of his recent projects, and provided great results. I think much of the blame for the disappointment of this presentation has to lie with the Director really, who fails to light scenes properly, does not correct the contrast levels and leaves everything quite variable in terms of picture quality. At times perfectly in-focus, with detail levels high, whilst at other times it dips a little and things appear to be unnecessarily soft, the previously suitably filmic grain across the picture raising to an intrusive level. The colour scheme is quite broad, but again let down by black tones and lighting, even if the locations still look pretty spectacular. Overall, for such a recent, relatively decent budget, and location-driven mainstream release, this is not a standout Blu-ray presentation in any way, and really is not what fans would have expected from a new title.
The aural offering is more satisfying, a DTS-HD Master Audio track that hits all the right buttons, in spite of the fact that the material does not particularly promote any kind of boisterous, in-your-face traits. Dialogue, obviously the most important aspect, comes across clearly and coherently throughout, from the quarrelling to Roberts’ calculated narration. Effects are almost entirely atmospheric, giving the movie a warm ambience that runs through many of the scenes, from the busy chatter of the Italian restaurants, to the bustle of the streets in India and the active wildlife in these more foreign locales. Whilst there are few signs of strong directionality across the surrounds, there’s more significant rear use than you would expect, and the score – which is, in my opinion, far too lighthearted for the picture – permeates the channels whenever things get a little too quiet. Bass is almost non-existent, and there are limitations to what this track has to offer, but it is still a decent accompaniment for this particular film.
Added Footage Marker
The movie comes in two different versions: the original Theatrical Cut and a 6-minute longer Director’s Cut. I’ve already briefly noted some changes in the movie section of the review, but it’s worth noting in the extras section that the Director’s Cut can be viewed with an Added Footage Marker, which tells you when new scenes are being viewed. It takes almost half an hour before you start to notice extra footage put in, but it comes exactly where you would expect it – mainly extra scenes between Roberts and Franco, showing the dissolution of their relationship. It still does not setup any kind of contextual timeline, so you don’t really know whether these guys have been together for longer than a week, but it does offer up more of how their relationship breaks down in a sea of petty arguments, all intercut with Roberts lecturing a self-help group (?) about how “infatuation leads to the ultimate devaluation of self.” We also get snippets of extra dialogue with her friend/agent and a couple of other insignificant moments.
Ryan Murphy’s Journey with Eat Pray Love is just a couple of minutes long, where the Director talks about picking up the project after his own messy break-up, how it appeals to men as much as women (no), how it shows you that if you’re unhappy in your job, your relationship and your life you should change things (as long as you’re being paid to), talks about working closely with Elizabeth Gilbert, and feeling like Julia Roberts is like a sister (he’s the camp Director behind Glee, this response to Roberts is not wholly unexpected).
The Beginning of the Journey takes 15 minutes to show the project’s inception. Initially we hear things more from Elizabeth Gilbert’s point of view, talking about how she felt trapped in habit, and how she came up with the idea for this year out, travelling, and – of course – omitting to make note of the fact that she got paid to do this. She discusses how she had early feedback saying that every woman in the world would want to read it, and talks about the impact of her work. Julia Roberts discusses how she got involved in the project – reading the book before it became an international success, and finding that it massively appealed to her, and some of the other cast members chip in as well. There’s some final film footage going on in the background, as well as a few behind the scenes clips of sequence being shot, and eventually the Featurette takes a look at the first location – Rome. Following on in the same style, we get two accompanying Featurettes: Praying in India and Finding Balance, which look at the corresponding sections of the movie, adopting much the same approach of location footage and cast/crew interviews.
Rounding off the disc we get a ‘Better Days’ Music Video and a few Previews.
I honestly quite like Julia Roberts, and it would have been nice if her latest return to the romantic drama (with a hint of comedy) genre, which she pioneered in the first place, would have been a quality success. Unfortunately neither the box office numbers nor the critical response has been as favourable as one might expect, especially considering the bestselling autobiographical novel that it was based upon. I guess moviegoers aren’t as easily fooled as the producers expected. The movie is – at face value – a pretty voyage through exotic locales, with gorgeous vistas and a lovely guide. Unfortunately, to sit through two and a half hours of it, there should really be more substance behind the visuals, and when you look more closely you realise there’s something not quite right about the message the movie sends. The central character is massively self-centred, and pretty immature, and her voyage appears to be little more than an unjustified, whimsical year-long pity party where she inexplicably makes dozens of friends along the way, spends a stupid amount of money whilst doing no work, and discovers, after all the travelling, that she does need a man after all. So much for independence. The worst thing about this kind of escapism, naturally tailored for the tastes of bored 40-something housewives, is the exclusivity – how many of us can really afford to just throw in our jobs and go travelling for a year? Little is made of the fact that Liz Gilbert was paid to do all of this, and you have to wonder, did the book actually come out of her experiences whilst travelling, or did she create the experiences for the purposes of writing an interesting book?
On Region Free US Blu-ray we get a pretty disappointing visual presentation, which does not quite do justice to the sumptuous scenery, and a decent enough audio track, as well as a couple of extras which fans will want to check out. There’s little difference between the two cuts, but if you’ve survived 140 minutes of Liz Gilbert talking about me, me, me, then there’s no reason not to put up with an extra six minutes is there? Really, it does not fix the picture in any way, but it does improve one of the subplots that, I suspect, was most badly affected by the transition condensing of book to film. Die-hard Gilbert fans (all those Oprah lovers out there) will already have this on pre-order, and will probably be content with the package. Julia Roberts fans will find it hard to resist one of the more prominent lead roles she’s had in the last decade, but those who haven’t yet seen it should be prepared to take it at face value only. It’s just a pretty-looking movie about a pretty star prancing around the world doing stuff that your average person simply would never have the opportunity to do. If you want quality introspective romantic drama character-studies, look elsewhere, to films like Garden State – or even Love Actually! Take Eat Pray Love to heart and you’re falling into the same trap as the flawed real-life character. But I guess you could simply say ‘the medicine man told me to do it’.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £34.95
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