Posts Tagged ‘Julia Roberts’

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Money Monster

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Director: Jodie Foster

Cast: Julia Roberts, George Clooney, Jack O’Connell, Dominic West, Caitriona Balfe, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Denham

Young British actor Jack O’Connell certainly seems to be handpicked by Oscar winner female actresses turned directors to star in their films. First it was O’Connell’s brilliant portrayal of Olympic athlete Louis Zamperini turned prisoner of war in the World War two epic Unbroken directed by Angelina Jolie and now he is cast as the disgruntled young investor Kyle Budwell in Jodie Foster’s live action hostage drama, Money Monster set on Wall Street, New York city.

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Echoing a similar vibe to the brilliant Spike Lee film, Inside Man, in which Jodie Foster starred, Money Monster is a gripping tale of TV show which is taken hostage by the unhinged yet scared Budwell, who holds the show’s vain TV host Lee Gates hostage. Gates is wonderfully played by Oscar winner George Clooney (Syriana) who literally has to put his life in the hands of the Money Monster show producer Patty Fenn, a sharp and sassy performance by Oscar winner Julia Roberts.

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The fact that Money Monster has Julia Roberts and George Clooney as the two main leads is testament to the film’s star power yet rising star Jack O’Connell holds his own as the desperate and slightly idiotic Budwell who has literally bitten off more than he can chew, when he creates a live hostage drama so that the show, Money Monster can ascertain the real truth behind an investment company Ibis mysteriously losing $800 million which is initially blamed on a glitch due to a trading algorithm.

As Money Monster develops, it soon emerges, that the slimy CEO of the murky multi-national Ibis, Walt Camby wonderfully played by Dominic West, last seen in the brilliant series The Affair, has done some dodgy stock manipulation as well as orchestrating some labour unrest at a platinum mine in South Africa. No surprise there.

Money Monster is a taut, watchable thriller and whilst the plot is at times contrived, it is a fascinating indictment on the power of broadcast media especially in the public’s hunger to witness a dramatic spectacle unfold, made more pertinent as the conflict being televised relates to the incomprehensible world of international high finance, where a chosen few are entrusted with the financial futures of millions of shareholders in these precarious economic times.

As a director Jodie Foster highlights the immediacy of Live Television while skilfully blending in the less than glamorous, but flawed characters behind the scenes which generate such flashy media content. Clooney and Roberts are particularly well cast as TV host and producer while O’Connell once again demonstrates that his star is on the rise.

Money Monster is highly recommended viewing, extremely watchable, unpredictable and very entertaining.

 

Maternal Unity

Mother’s Day

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Director: Garry Marshall

Cast: Kate Hudson, Jennifer Aniston, Timothy Olyphant, Shay Mitchell, Jason Sudeikis, Julia Roberts, Hector Elizondo, Aasif Mandvi, Robert Pine, Margo Martindale.

Unlike Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve, previous Garry Marshall films which featured massive casts and a diverse series of interlinking stories, his third film Mother’s Day is confined by a much smaller cast and a group of actors who really should have been in a better film.

Golden Globe winner Kate Hudson (Almost Famous), Oscar Winner Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich) are joined by Horrible Bosses co-stars Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis in Mother’s Day a structurally unsound portrait of different versions of mother hood with Aniston and Hudson taking the lead as struggling young mothers Sandy and Jesse battling to cope with vain ex-husbands in the form of Timothy Olyphant (Live Free or Die Hard) and over bearing mothers in the form of character actress Margo Martindale (August: Osage Country, The Hours).

What really would have worked was if Goldie Hawn was cast as Kate Hudson’s mother in this film, it would have elevated Mother’s Day to an entirely different level of comedy as they are Hollywood mother and daughter.

Garry Marshall also entices his Pretty Woman costars Julia Roberts and Hector Elizondo back on screen together. Roberts plays a Home shopping Network TV Queen, Miranda who doesn’t appear to have children. Jason Sudeikis who was so hilarious in The Hangover trilogy stars as a widower Bradley battling to cope with bringing up two young daughters after his wife and mother of his children, a marine, was inexplicably killed in combat. Jennifer Garner pops up briefly as the dead mother seen through video footage.

Whilst all the characters in Mother’s Day gradually interlink in contemporary Atlanta, the plot of the film is overlong and at times contrived, but nevertheless Mother’s Day is a very light hearted comedy, which will appeal to many an audience who are looking for a cosy and warm cinematic outing with their moms.

Audiences should not expect anything terrific or profound in Mother’s Day, but a really fluffy feel good film without too much depth or substance. Watch out for Aasif Mandvi (The Million Dollar Arm) as Jesse’s closeted Indian husband Russell who also has to deal with his own overbearing mother. British actor Jack Whitehall also makes an impression as Zack, an aspiring stand-up comic in the bars of Buckhead, Atlanta.

Mother’s Day is a fun film, but nothing more than a whimsical take on motherhood from a truly American perspective without the added bonus of having some real star power. This is no August: Osage County or Terms of Endearment but then it was never intended to be.

 

Passion Drives Us

Secret in their Eyes

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Director: Billy Ray

Cast: Nicole Kidman, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Julia Roberts, Alfred Molina, Michael Kelly, Dean Norris, Zoe Graham, Joe Cole

Secret in Their Eyes is an American remake of the 2010 Argentinian film “El secreto de sus ojos” which won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.

The director of the Spanish language film  Juan José Campanella co-writes the screenplay with Captain Philips writer Billy Ray and this new version teams up the talents of Oscar winners Nicole Kidman (The Hours) and Julia Roberts  (Erin Brockovich, Charlie Wilson’s War) with Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave).

This three handed complex murder mystery is set in Los Angeles and Ejiofor plays a Counter-Terrorism detective Ray Kasten whose allegiance to an unsolved murder case involving his partners daughter Carolyn Cobb, glimpsed in flashbacks and played by Zoe Graham last seen in Boyhood, leads him and ambitious and beautiful district attorney Claire Sloane, played by Kidman to believe that Carolyn Cobb’s killer is still out there since the case was never technically solved.

Julia Roberts plays a washed out and grim-faced detective Jess Cobb, whose only daughter was the victim of a horrific crime. Secret in Their Eyes is a tense psychological thriller with a brilliant twist at the end, although at times the action could have been more captivating.

Considering the acting talents involved, Secret in Their Eyes tends to disappoint at times as the plot, stumbles along stretched between two time periods 2002 and 2014 which makes following the narrative more difficult.

The best scene in the film is when Kidman’s character Claire is questioning the main suspect Marzin played by Joe Cole with a hint of psycho-sexual paranoia thrown in. Audiences should look out for great performances by supporting actors Alfred Molina (Abduction, Prince of Persia) as Martin Morales and Michael Kelly, last seen in Netflix’s House of Cards as Reg Siefert.

One gets the feeling that the original Argentinian film was far more riveting. Secret in Their Eyes is recommended viewing but nothing spectacular and although Roberts, Kidman and Ejiofor are superb, one gets the sense that a better director would have made this English language version more riveting and less contrived. Viewers can judge for themselves.

 

 

 

54th BAFTA Awards

The  54th BAFTA Awards /

The British Academy Film Awards

Took place on the 25th February 2001 in London

BAFTA Winners in the Film Category:

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Best Film: Gladiator

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Best Director: Ang Lee – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

billy_elliot_ver1Best Actor: Jamie Bell – Billy Elliot

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Best Actress: Julia Roberts – Erin Brockovich

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Best Supporting Actor: Benicio del Toro – Traffic

Best Supporting Actress: Julie Walters – Billy Elliot

Best British Film: Billy Elliott

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Best Original Screenplay: Cameron CroweAlmost Famous 

Best Adapted Screenplay: Stephen Gaghan Traffic

Best Foreign Language Film: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/54th_British_Academy_Film_Awards

 

 

 

58th Golden Globe Awards

The 58th Golden Globe Awards

Took place on Sunday 21st January 2001 by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association

Golden Globe Winners in The Film Categories:

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Best Film Drama: Gladiator

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Best Actor Drama: Tom Hanks – Cast Away

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Best Actress Drama: Julia Roberts – Erin Brockovich

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Best Director: Ang Lee – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

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Best Supporting Actor – Benicio del Toro – Traffic

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Best Supporting Actress – Kate Hudson – Almost Famous

Best Film Musical/Comedy: Almost Famous

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Best Actor Musical/ Comedy: George Clooney – O Brother, Where Art Thou?

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Best Actress Musical / Comedy – Renee Zellweger – Nurse Betty

Best Foreign Language Film – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Taiwan)

Death of Fire Island

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The Normal Heart

NB: This is a made for TV film

Director: Ryan Murphy

Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Julia Roberts, Stephen Spinella, Alfred Molina, Taylor Kitsch, Jim Parsons

HBO’s The Normal Heart directed by Glee and Eat, Pray, Love director Ryan Murphy is a startling and heart wrenching tale of the outbreak of AIDS in New York’s gay community in the early 1980’s. Mark Ruffalo plays a middle aged openly gay man, Ned Weeks who gives one of the best performances of his career as he becomes the outspoken champion of gay rights and one who urges the American government to do more to fight the stigmatisation of AIDS as it ravaged the homosexual community in the mid 1980’s.

This film is set at a similar time as Jean-Marc Vallee’s Dallas Buyers Club, but unlike this Oscar winning film, is a made for Television, bravely done by HBO featuring some exceptional performances besides Ruffalo that includes Matt Bomer as his lover, Felix Turner, a young, handsome New York society journalist dying of AIDS related illnesses along with Julia Roberts as Dr Emma Brockner a wheel-chaired bound no nonsense doctor who is adamant that the American gay community need to be sufficiently educated about this disease. She goes onto advocate that the New York gay community need to immediately curb their promiscuous lifestyle, so lavishly explored in the film’s opening scenes on Fire Island, in upstate New York, the gay resort famous in the 1980’s for White Parties, wild sex and unabashed homosexual hedonism.

Audiences watching The Normal Heart should be warned this is a sad, graphic and dramatic tale of a community ravaged by an illness which they were not equipped to handle, both physically and emotionally. Remember that this is set at least 30 years ago before all the medical advances in ARV treatment globally and when AIDS research was in its infancy. Without the sufficient funding from the American government, those that suffered at the forefront of the epidemic, was an already marginalized community known only for their lascivious and risky sexual behaviour.

What director Ryan Murphy does so brilliantly is remind the audience that despite all the stigma and the prejudice, these were real professional people dying of a yet unquantified illness with a virtually non-existent health care regime and support structure.

At the core of The Normal Heart based upon a play by Larry Kramer is the remarkable performance by Mark Ruffalo who certainly has proved his worth as a serious actor in recent years especially after his recent Oscar nomination for The Kids Are Alright.

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The Normal Heart as a mainstream film, like Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra would have a fairly limited appeal, but it is comforting that HBO takes a bold leading in making these films and even attracting such A list talent like Julia Roberts, Michael Douglas and Matt Damon.

Watch out for an unrecognizable Taylor Kitsch (Savages, Lone Survivor) as Bruce Niles a young, arrogant and gorgeous gay man who appears to be immune to all the community activism and terrible threat affecting his friends along with The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parson’s in a brilliant and touching performance as Tommy Boatwright who counts the dead on his Rolladex.

This drama is brutal, heart wrenching and truly inspiring film making even if it only was made as a TV film, but really should be seen by everyone gay or straight especially in the wake of the recent commercialization of gay culture in Western mainstream media along with the associated rights and civil liberties which the gay and lesbian community have been granted in Europe and America recently, viewed within the 21st century progress made in transforming HIV into a manageable disease through a strict regime of medication controls.

The Normal Heart is highly recommended viewing, boosted by superb performances all round which should go a long way in deconstructing the stigma surrounding marginalized communities especially at the outbreak of an initially incomprehensible disease.

 

 

Oklahoma’s Malevolent Matriarch

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August: Osage County

Director: John Wells

Starring: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis, Julianne Nicholson, Ewan McGregor, Dermot Mulroney, Chris Cooper, Margo Martindale, Benedict Cumberbatch, Abigail Breslin, Sam Shepard

The Pulitzer Prize winning play by Tracy Letts, August: Osage County comes to the big screen with a stunning ensemble cast headed by the incomparable and superb Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady, Devil Wears Prada) as the pill popping matriarch of the Oklahoma based Weston family, who all gather together when Violet Weston, a malevolent matriarch played by Streep alerts her clan to the sudden and inexplicable disappearance of her heavy drinking poet husband, Bev Weston, a brief appearance by Sam Shepard. Oscar winner Julia Roberts plays the feisty eldest daughter Barbara who drags her straitlaced husband Bill Fordham played by Ewan McGregor and their teenage daughter Jean played by Little Miss Sunshine star Abigail Breslin.

Incidentally the playwright Tracy Letts is also an actor who recently appeared on the Award winning show Homeland. His take on an all female dysfunctional family in his award winning play is both perceptive and wonderfully written with Streep and Roberts savouring some of the best lines like – “Bitch, eat your Fish!”

August: Osage County takes themes of addiction, inter-generational communication along with family secrets and rivalry to new heights as the entire Weston clan gather, but the plot is really anchored by the fierce exchanges between a disorientated Violet and her outspoken daughter Barbara, in a career best performance by Julia Roberts. Streep earned her 18th Oscar nomination in 2014 for her almost tragic yet bitter performance of Violet Weston, a woman who clearly has not had an easy life on the mid-Western plans and has to cope with all the hardships including bringing up three daughters and an inebriated poet as a husband.

Julia Roberts (Erin Brokovich, Eat, Pray, Love) also earned a 2014 Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her brilliant performance as Barbara, a woman whose marriage is failing and is battling to cope with a rebellious teenage daughter, an uncooperative cheating husband and a matriarchal and incredibly demanding mother. The onscreen tension between Violet and Barbara is beautifully played out against the vast Oklahoma plains, with the landscape providing an emotional resonance to all the familial conflict that the Weston gathering produces where everyone’s own miserable secrets, faults and deceptions soon come to light amidst the hottest month of summer: August.

Director John Wells interweaves the chaotic scenes at the Weston mansion in rural Oklahoma with gorgeous shots of the mid-Western plains, giving a sense that these characters are grappling with not only their own turmoil but their unique identities apart from those prescribed by being part of a larger family group. And what a family it is.

Violet Weston’s two other daughters are the pacifying Ivy played by Julianne Nicholson and the free-spirited youngest Karen, played by Oscar nominee Juliette Lewis (Cape Fear) both of whom have to heed the dominance of their mother and eldest sister, along with the bitter rivalry which ensues.

As with all plays that are turned into film adaptation, much like the four character play Doubt, August: Osage County drives its narrative purely through an electrifying and barbed script, with Streep and Roberts delivering some vicious one-liners. The rest of the cast including Chris Cooper as Uncle Charlie and Margo Martindale, Benedict Cumberbatch (12 Years a Slave) and Dermot Mulroney provide a theatrical sounding board for the predominantly female driven story of rivalry, deception and loneliness.

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What elevates August: Ossage County out of pure melodrama, although some aspects of the plot are questionable, is the groundbreaking and utterly absorbing performance of Streep and Roberts as mother and daughter Violet and Barbara fighting each other and their own apparent faults significant in the touching scene when they are both wondering aimlessly through an Oklahoma hayfield. This onscreen rivalry ironically is a reversal of Streep’s performance opposite Shirley Maclaine as Hollywood daughter and mother in the 1990 film about drug addiction, Postcards from the Edge based upon the best selling novel by Carrie Fisher of Star Wars fame.

August: Osage County is a compelling family drama, at times hysterical, at times poignant but a wonderful and incisive examination of a complex family dynamic which forces each member to  come to grips with their own flaws whilst becoming aware of a collective sense of misery, loss and impending loneliness. This film is a master class in ensemble acting and highly recommended viewing.

73rd Academy Awards

73rd Academy Awards

25th March 2001

Oscar Winners at the 73rd Academy Awards

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Best Film: Gladiator

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Best Director: Steven SoderberghTraffic

Best Actor: Russell Crowe – Gladiator

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Best Actress: Julia Roberts – Erin Brockovich

Best Supporting Actor: Benicio del Toro – Traffic

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Best Supporting Actress: Marcia Gay Harden – Pollock

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Best Original Screenplay: Cameron Crowe – Almost Famous

Best Adapted Screenplay: Stephen Gaghan – Traffic

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Best Foreign Language Film: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon directed by Ang Lee (Taiwan)

Best Documentary Feature: Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport  directed by Mark Jonathan Harris and Deborah Oppenheimer

Best Original Score: Tan Dun – Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

Best Cinematography: Peter Pau – Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

Best Costume Design: Janty Yates – Gladiator

Best Film Editing: Stephen Mirrione – Traffic

Best Visual Effects: Gladiator

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/73rd_Academy_Awards

 

The Evil Queen Stakes

Snow White and the Huntsman

Vicious Vanity takes no prisoners

Director Rupert Sanders visually stunning Gothic Snow White and the Huntsman channels Gullermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth and the hit HBO Feudal Fantasy series Game of Thrones and ain’t no fairytale although all the elements of fantasy are evident from Trolls to Dwarves, to Knights and Fairies. The real winner of Snow White and the Huntsman is the Evil Queen Ravena played beautifully with a seriously unhinged quality by Oscar winner Benoni superstar Charlize Theron, referencing her earlier role in Monster. In Snow White and the Huntsman, Charlize steals the show and is the backbone to this dark fantasy epic featuring Kirsten Stewart as the meek and anaemic Snow White and Thor’s hairy and gruff Chris Hemsworth as the sword wielding Huntsman sent to rescue the damsel trapped in the dark forest…

Mirror Mirror

This Queen ain’t no Bad Apple

Where the frivolous and occasionally funny Mirror Mirror spectacularly fails is the casting of goodie-two-shoes actress Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen in director of The Immortals Tarsem Singh’s frothy and glossy retelling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves in Mirror Mirror, which as a comedy is fun in parts namely due to the casting of genuine dwarves, along with Nathan Lane and Lily Collins, daughter of singer Phil Collins as the sweet and innocent Snow White, but the casting of Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen?Really?

Joan Rivers, Rupaul  or Kim Catrall could do a better job especially in this semi-Bollywood fantasy featuring  the buff Armie Hammer as the hapless but entirely vacant Prince. Wait for the end of Mirror Mirror to see the Dance number and the redeeming aspect is the fabulous costumes at the Queens Ball with Snow White as a Swan…

Unlike Mirror Mirror, Snow White and the Huntsman is pure feudal old world action with a dash of macabre incest, vanity and vicious magic realism. Charlize Theron steals the show as the completely off kilter pyschopathic Evil Queen who bathes in milk and whose gold mirror comes to life. Twilight star Kirsten Stewart only really comes into her role as the grubby Snow White in the second part of the film, but alas there is no chemistry between her and the Huntsman, played with less enthusiasm by Chris Hemsworth who really made an impact with Kenneth Branagh’s Thor.

Mirror Mirror is suitable for pretty little girls and Snow White and the Huntsman is more closer to malignant  witchcraft appealing to a more jaded generation complete with a sinister Evil Queen hell bent in her quest for the heart of a virgin at the expense of the seven dwarfs, the occasional fairy and a hapless Troll. Charlize Theron is just that much more menacing in the evil Queen stakes and film’s final show down is visually stimulating.

 

 

Eat, Pray, Love and Indulge…

Eat Pray Love

Successful TV series Glee director Ryan Murphy’s big screen adaptation of the Elizabeth Gilbert bestseller Eat Pray Love staring Julia Roberts as a New York writer who decides to embark on a years journey of spiritual discovery is infused with a luminous glow from the opening scene in luscious Bali.

No such thing as a guilty pleasure – just indulge!

Whilst any self-discovery novel is difficult to bring to the big screen especially as Elizabeth Gilbert writes about her own experience on a years trip to Italy, then India and finally Indonesia, Julia Roberts delivers a fine performance as Liz relishing in the exotic locations and a wonderful supporting cast which seems to improve as the 2 and a half hour film progresses.

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The Italy section is superb and the locations especially Rome, the Italian actors and naturally the food are sumptuous and particularly easy on the viewer making the Eat section utterly enchanting.

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Whilst Murphy tried to imitate the opening sequence of Slumdog Millionaire in the India section, the most moving part of the film is a standout character performance by Richard Jenkins as Richard from Texas.

For in the novel, Eat Pray Love, Richard from Texas was a character written with such accuracy and obvious charm that I kept wondering which actor would fill that part. Jenkins does a superb interpretation of a middle-aged American who has literally lost everything landing up at the Ashram to clear his mind and an overwhelming sense of guilt.

Love

The final section of Eat Pray Love, set in Bali was fascinating but after Italy and India, felt a tad faded although the scenery is still ravishing. As far as adaptation goes, the film sticks very close to the novel and Julia Roberts does a hugely impressive task of managing a character that has travelled not only literally across the globe, but also spiritually from a discontented New Yorker escaping an ugly divorce to a woman who has found serenity and peace as she discovers love again in a most unlikely man. Javier Bardem whilst always gripping to watch, gave the impression he was not quite comfortable in such a largely commercial film as Eat Pray Love. Bardem is more at home in edgier roles playing the Spanish seducer in Vicky Cristina Barcelona or the psychopathic killer in No Country for Old Men or the gay Cuban poet in Julian Schnabel’s Before Night Falls.

Bardem’s role as Felipe the love interest for Liz in the Love act of the journey lacked edge and panache in a role that was as unclear in the novel as it appeared in the film. Although watching Roberts and Bardem together was certainly interesting more for the lack of sparkle than the effort the two actors put in to contrive to make their romance believable.

Best scenes in the film are most certainly in Rome (all the sequences are exquisite) and the delightful meals Roberts character is served puts Babette’s Feast to shame. Worst scene in the film was the ending, but I’ll leave that up to the viewer to decide. Most consistency in Eat Pray Love was the varied choice of actors who played alongside Julia Roberts as her character travels the world, from Billy Crudup to  the shamefully underutilized James Franco to Richard Jenkins and finally to Javier Bardem.

As for it being a woman’s movie, not really as regardless of one’s gender anyone who has ever desired to travel or more importantly decided to take a year off from the monotony of urban living and responsibility and see countless exotic locations could surely identify with Liz’s journey. Eat Pray Love should feature at the Awards season if not for Julia Roberts most certainly for a supporting actor nomination for Richard Jenkins. Whilst it is no Razor’s Edge, Eat Pray Love will find many ardent fans the world over.

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