24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Eat, Pray, Love

Critical Mass: 'Eat Pray Love' [Updated]

August 13, 2010 |  1:30 pm

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For girl-type people, writer-director Ryan Murphy's adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir "Eat Pray Love" was the second-most-anticipated film of the summer (behind "Sex and the City 2"), but sadly it appears to be sharing the same harsh reviews that Carrie and company received in May.

Writing in The Times, critic Betsy Sharkey zeroes in on the problem: tears. She writes that Murphy "wrings all of his actors emotionally dry, scraping to the bone to expose vulnerability, but he hasn't quite figured out how to control that power. So this gorgeous but messy affair isn't always as satisfying as it should be."

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Eat Pray Sell? A tale of two Hollywood tie-ins

August 10, 2010 |  1:41 pm

Books have been fueling Hollywood sales for decades, but the reverse has been true far less often. While a publisher will often issue a new edition with some key art and a "Now a Major Motion Picture" tag on the cover, a movie's release often leads to only a small uptick in a tie-in book's sales; many who see the film may say they want to read the book but they don't necessarily go out and buy it.

EatprThe big exception this year has been "Eat, Pray, Love," Elizabeth Gilbert's post-divorce memoir of spiritual and romantic discovery. Already a phenomenon long before Julia Roberts began scooping gelato on an Italian park bench — the book, with a picture of said star on said bench holding unsaid spoon — leaped back to No. 1 on the New York Times paperback nonfiction list at the end of May, even as Sony was doing little more than rolling out marketing materials.

The Viking/Penguin book hasn't budged since, racking up what is now an astounding 182 weeks on the list, or 38 weeks longer than Gilbert's ideological antithesis, "I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell," a memoir of "life as a self-absorbed, drunken womanizer." (If only they each made an appearance in the other's book.)

But other recent tie-ins and piggyback attempts haven't been as well conceived. We were surprised the other day, for instance, to find Jon Krakauer's "Where Men Win Glory" the author's exploration of the late NFLer-turned-soldier Pat Tillman, arrive on our desks as the Weinstein Co. prepares to release "The Tillman Story," Amir Bar-Lev's documentary on the same.

"I am sending you this book in anticipation of the release of the movie 'The Tillman Story," went the letter from a VP of publicity at publisher Vintage. It's a nice thought, since both book and film are in-depth explorations of similar subjects. Except for one problem: The Tillman family hasn't exactly embraced the book, which they feel didn't accurately convey Pat Tillman's life or death. At Sundance, Pat Tillman's youngest brother didn't gild the lily. Asked about Krakauer's book, Rich Tillman told the screening audience that "that guy's a piece of ...."

Vintage, which did not issue a new new edition to commemorate the movie, did go for a disclaimer in its letter, saying, "The documentary movie is not based on the book (and has no association with Jon Krakauer), but I thought it might provide you with valuable background on Pat Tillman."

Indeed it might. We wouldn't count on any publicity shout-outs from the Tillman family, though.

— Steven Zeitchik

http://twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Movie tie-in edition of 'Eat, Pray, Love.' Credit: Viking Penguin

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Are men or women more obsessive about movies?

August 6, 2010 |  8:12 pm

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There are plenty of theories about which gender is drawn more to the movies, and how they make their decisions about going to them. For a number of years it was all about the young males, then, after "Twilight" and "Sex and The City," all about groups of women, we were told.

According to the MPAA's research, when it comes to overall attendance, the genders are actually about even. In 2009, the organization found that the moviegoing audience in this country was 52% female and 48% male, pretty much reflective of the breakdown among the U.S. population as a whole, which is 51% female and 49% male. (Women did purchase tickets at a higher rate (55%-45%), but that's a purse-strings statistic more than a filmgoing one. )

But it may not be that simple. With nearly every other form of entertainment (sports, books, you name it) one gender takes the lead in determining which products are successes and which are consigned to failure. Movies should, all things being equal, follow the same pattern.

It's almost impossible to get a real-world snapshot of the battle of the sexes at the box office -- most movies appeal at least a little bit to both genders -- and there are usually other movies crowding theaters in a given weekend anyway.

But a rare experiment will take place next weekend when the testosterone-heavy exploits of Sylvester Stallone's "The Expendables" goes up against the journey of female discovery that is Julia Roberts' "Eat Pray Love."  It's as close to a laboratory environment as you can get, since the two films' subject matter and intended audience couldn't sit on further ends of the gender spectrum. "The Expendables" contains few romantic interludes, while "Eat Pray Love" doesn't feature many mercenary gunfights. Julia Roberts is interested in discovering a foreign country. Sylvester Stallone wants to blow one up.

Other factors, meanwhile, are controlled for. Both are mid-budget studio films coming out in the dog days of August. Both were made with the goal of pleasing crowds more than critics. Both pictures are driven by one huge-name star accompanied by a host of smaller ones. And the two are going head-to-head with very little competition. ("Inception" should have finally lost some steam; the more modest "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" is the only other wide opener.) The film that wins the weekend should provide one gender with bragging rights and settle the box-office question (a point made amusingly in the below fan trailer for "The Expendables," which implores men to turn out for the film next weekend to take back the mantle for all of masculinity).

We won't know the results of the experiment for nine days, but the tracking already suggests some interesting lessons.

Although both films are tracking at roughly the same rates -- in electoral terms it's a dead heat -- there are more women out there who want to see "Eat Pray Love" than there are men who want to see "The Expendables." There are several potential factors behind this, but the most logical is that men just can't get worked up about a movie as women can, no matter how much a particular film is aimed squarely at them.

But that's not the only pro-female statement the tracking makes. While women are more enthusiastic about "Love" than men are about "Expendables," the two movies remain in a dead heat. So where does "The Expendables" make up ground? With women.

"The Expendables" is tracking better with females than "Eat Pray Love" is with males. That's an even more potent statement, Women, it turns out, aren't just more excited than men about movies that lie in their sweet spot, but they're more excited about movies that don't.

Yes, we know, these are just two movies in a sea of them. And all gender-related theories are inherently general; certainly there are plenty of men who remain enthusiastic and omnivorous filmgoers, willing to see a romantic comedy as much as they are a superhero picture.

But we've heard for so long that movies can succeed by aiming at one group or another, and certainly can succeed if they lock down one gender. But according to the pitched battle between "The Expendables" and "Eat Pray Love," that isn't entirely true. One gender does hold an edge when it comes to determining a film's fate. Women get more excited about movies, and they're more willing to see movies that don't specifically target them. Men, for their part, are more lukewarm and less flexible.

Even when a male-centric movie outduels a female-centric one, it turns out that it might well do so with the help of an unlikely group: women.

--Steven Zeitchik

http://twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Julia Roberts in 'Eat Pray Love.' Credit: Sony Pictures

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Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.

Stanley Tucci and Meryl Streep could make more movie magic

July 15, 2010 |  6:40 pm

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EXCLUSIVE: Stanley Tucci and Meryl Streep, both great actors in their own right, seemed even stronger when they shared the screen in "The Devil Wears Prada" and "Julie & Julia." Now they could be teaming up again — this time with Tucci behind the camera.

A film package being circulated to studios by Creative Artists Agency has an appealing cast and enticing premise: Tucci would direct stars Streep and Tina Fey in a project tentatively titled "Mommy & Me," according to sources familiar with the package.

There's no script and no writers yet on the film, which is obviously at the shopping/development stage, but the central idea is that of a mother-daughter comedy that will give the two actresses a chance to flash their comedic and dramatic chops. There's also something sort of brilliant about the title: If Fey's "Date Night" drew couples to theaters on their own date nights, "Mommy & Me" could have a similar effect on mothers and daughters looking for some bonding time at the multiplex.

A number of studios have shown interest. But Sony, which is beginning to corner the market on female-oriented counter-programmers (it has the upcoming "Eat, Pray, Love" and has just signed on for another Ryan Murphy-Julia Roberts collaboration) is in the pole position to land the film.

It's unclear at this point if Tucci would also star, but he will produce along with his partners Steve Buscemi and Wren Arthur through their Olive Productions company. (A number of other production companies are also involved, including Tory Tunnell and Joby Harold of Safehouse  -- Harold wrote the treatment on which the project is based and Lucy Barzun Donnelly and Joshua Astrachan of Locomotive.)

Tucci has taken occasional detours into directing, with perhaps his first foray being the most notable — he co-directed 1996's  "Big Night," a breakout comedy that captured the mayhem as two restaurateur brothers plan one last blowout meal to save their struggling eatery. Streep has perfected the wise-but-flawed mother in movies as varied as "Prime" and "It's Complicated," while Fey has delved into matters maternal in the mid-budget "Baby Mama."

Taken together, all three names up the cachet level. Adding to the appeal: comedies about female relationships have been pretty big hits of late. "Julie & Julia" and "Mama Mia" drew crowds the past two summers and "Eat Pray Love" is looking like it could do the same this summer.

— Steven Zeitchik

http://twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Stanley Tucci and Meryl Streep in "Julie & Julia." Credit: Sony Pictures

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Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.

'Eat Pray Love,' now for kids!

June 2, 2010 |  6:16 pm

All the 13-year-olds who were hoping to see Julia Roberts turn her life around after a divorce can rest easy: "Eat Pray Love" has been upgraded from an R to a PG-13 by the Motion Picture Assn. of America.

But filmgoers may get a little more than they bargained for when they head out to see the New Age-y romantic comedy. According to a statement from the group's Classification and Rating Appeals Board, the movie had been given an  "R rating for 'brief strong language.' The film is now rated PG-13 for 'brief strong language, some sexual references and male rear nudity.' So it got some male rear nudity and then landed a looser rating. The ways of the MPAA are mysterious.

--Steven Zeitchik

Twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT


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