The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Who will be the first guy in America to admit he likes 'Eat Pray Love'?

August 11, 2010 |  4:39 pm

Julia_roberts I may watch a lot of "SportsCenter," but that doesn't mean I don't like a wonderfully warm 'n' fuzzy women's picture, whether it's a great Lubitsch film like "The Shop Around the Corner" or one of Nora Ephron's cinematic souffles, like last year's "Julie & Julia." But there are chick flicks and then there chick flicks like Ryan Murphy's "Eat Pray Love," the sudsy Julia Roberts big-screen romance that opens on Friday opposite the testosterone-filled, throwback action picture  "The Expendables." Judging from the buzz I'm hearing, Sony might need to engage in some sort of mass hypnosis to lure any red-blooded American guy away from the Sly Stallone movie and into a theater showing "Eat Pray Love." As one female film executive I know put it: "I think I'd have better luck getting my husband to spend an afternoon at Bed, Bath and Beyond than seeing that movie."

Chick flicks (even good ones, like Richard Curtis' "Love, Actually") rarely get any traction with male film critics, especially squishy travelogues that take us around the world and back, as "Eat Pray Love" does. So I thought I'd keep track of how many male critics--if any--succumb to the film's pleasures. The early reviews don't bode well for "Love" having any serious male critic crossover potential.

At Rotten Tomatoes, "Love" has a lowly 25 Fresh Ratings so far, with six of the eight reviews currently posted giving it the old thumbs down. The one guy who gave it a good review is Steve Persall of the St. Petersburg Times, who offered the faint praise that it was, ahem, better than "Sex and the City 2." It sounds like Persall was awfully hungry when he saw the film, which might explain why he was so enthusiastic. As he writes: "At the very least it's a terrific travelogue starring someone we'd follow to the ends of the Earth. 'Eat Pray Love' is like one of those rich dishes [Julia Roberts] consumes in Italy: robustly flavored and guiltily pleasurable."

The other guys on the critic beat were less kind. Noting that the film clocks in at a "bloated" 140 minutes, Variety's Justin Chang says "director Ryan Murphy's superficial take on Elizabeth Gilbert's phenomenally successful memoir is an exotic junk-foot buffet that offers few lasting pleasures or surprises, let alone epiphanies. Sony's release should do well with a sizable and underserved audience of older femmes, though Gilbert's more discriminating readers may find themselves reaching for pillows and Pepto-Bismol by the end of this overlong voyage."

If any of my male readers see the film this weekend, please share your thoughts--and whether you needed to pop any Pepto-Bismol after the experience. I'll be watching to see if the movie passes muster with a lot more male film critics, but right now, I'm not holding my breath. 

Photo: Julia Roberts at the world premiere of "Eat Pray Love" in New York this week. Credit: Evan Agostino / Associated Press