The way they hyped up this movie and book – whose premise I really do like – I expected a nice piece depicting someone’s journey through self-discovery. Instead, it turned out to be a trite two hour movie depicting the shameless self-indulgences and superficiality of a vain person on the quest for the elusive “finding yourself” mantra she undoubtedly read up upon in the self help aisle at Barnes and Noble. Because of how the character acted and was portrayed, the audience just never gets to identify and empathize with her and her “problems”. For two hours you sit there and watch her whine about her life, how it is/was so unhappy and unfulfilled and what have you, but you never know why really.
If the goal is to have the audience empathize with a character and identify with it, they have to know what’s bothering them, be let in on their pain and unhappiness. That is what makes a great movie. The writers in this one seemed to want the audience to just take their word for it that she was unhappy and unfulfilled – despite all evidence to the contrary. Someone once said if the problem is in one’s head, it still is a problem. But in this movie, we never get to see what that is – imagined or real. The worst thing a movie maker can do is create unrelateable characters.
In this movie, Julia Roberts did a lousy job and her character is both unlikeable and unrelateable. This movie is supposed to tell us that material things and money are not the source to happiness and that there are other sources of happiness unrelated to such external things. Yet the main character (Roberts) spends a year travelling around the world living in great places that cost a lot of money. Later on, this movie promoted a lip-gloss by Lnacome or something. Yeah…way to send a message about material things not mattering. They should have pointed out that trying to find yourself when you are broke is much harder to do. Luckily, Roberts in this movie didn’t have to worry about that “tiny detail”. One should be so lucky to have so much money that it is not worth mentioning anymore – even though it still is used to buy you all the sanity and self-discovery trips in the world.
But it is not just that. The main character was annoying for other reasons as well. I mean her spiritual guide is a self-announced medicine man in Bali with amnesia. Yes amnesia, as in brain damage. She turns her life upside down because of the random crap he made up and told her, and then a year later when she goes back, to tell her “mentor” what she did, he doesnt even remember her!! It was hilarious. I thought they were kidding and that at this point the movie would take a turn; that her character would finally realize how immature and insane it was to do all those things to herself based on the random musings of a silly, old man who doesnt even know her. But NO. It stayed. That was it. Oh so conveniently, the shaman starts suddenly remembering her after she is about to burst into tears at the realization that she might have screwed up her life based on the words of a random, senile man. That’s deep.
The movie went downhill from there at an alarming rate. I have never seen so much substance-deficiency and implausibility of both story and characters packed into two hours or so of narcissistic screen time for a middle-aged actress. The supporting characters were unlikable too and Julia Roberts just seemed too old and burned out for some of the “boys” she dated – like James Franco. They wanted to make it look like her relationship with Franco – which she started 5 minutes after her divorce by the way – didnt work out for other deep reasons, like she loved him, but it is obvious that it didnt work out cause she is too old for him and he a vacuous moron. And then Javier Bardem. Obviously both of these people are on rebound, especially Bardem (who is 39 and has a 20 year old son but ok) but still after a couple of weeks of humping in the tropical hut, he confesses his ever endearing love for her like a starry-eyed 17 year old teenager. I seriously thought she knew better and would respond that she didn’t feel the same way, that she didn’t love him. But ta da, it turns out – despite all evidence to the contrary and what we see – she is in fact madly in love with him but (how original) is too scared to admit it cause she is afraid to get hurt. Yeah right. Could they have packed any more lame cliches into that?
They could and they did because in the end, just like any other woman I guess, all she needed obviously to get out of her funk was love and riding off into the sunset (literally) with her man.
Coming out of this garbage they tried to pass as a “wonderful journey” I figured that not only did I not get anything out of this movie and the supposed journey, but that obviously neither did the protagonist. Just as we never found out why she was really having a crisis and was unhappy, we also never find out why and how she got happy again. This movie is based on the premise that she lost her mojo and needed to find it, but looking closer it seems that she never had it. After that one year of travelling and exploring and meeting all these supposedly cool and enlightened people (quitters is more like it, see Bardem’s character), she doesnt seem to have found more purpose in life than before. She doesnt look and act changed, enlightened or as if she had gained some insight into who she really is and what she really wants out of life. She spent a year travelling around, “hanging out” and having a good time and all she got to show for is a man. As expected, because by being a self-absorbed, spoiled brat who never had to do a hard day’s work in life and doesn’t listen to people, you are not likely to gain insight into anything. Spiritually, she could have been Carrie Bradshaw’s sidekick when she went into hysteria.
In the end, she is exactly where she started: nowhere, drowning in her own superficiality and shallow-ness. The only exciting thing in her life will be a long distance relationship with Bardem between Bali and New York until she gets bored again and leaves, thinking that maybe the answers in life are to be found in the elusive wisdom of this one medicine man she read up upon on her last trip to the self help aisle – this time at Borders.