There's a sense while watching Eat Pray Love that it hasn't quite worked out how to be a movie. The excessive narration suggests that it's an audio book with slide show and this crutch is unnecessary. Prolific gay creative force Ryan Murphy (Glee, Nip/Tuck) is more sure-handed behind the camera than he was on his first feature (Running With Scissors) and the beauty of the images (courtesy of renowned cinematographer Robert Richardson) combined with the emotional accessibility of Julia Roberts are better Baedekers while traveling. Though it's repetitive and maybe a little pandering to its mature female demographic (Food porn? Check. Several hot men? You got it. Reassuring messages about fulfillment later in life? Si.) it definitely has its moments. It's essentially told in four acts: New York, Rome, India, Bali. India gets a little draggy but "Pray" isn't the best cinematic verb. Rome ("Eat") is the most enjoyable. Julia seems to truly relish emptying her plate and there's a great bit where she teaches hunky Italian actor Luca Argentero that the American word for wine is "therapist". Ha ha.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World clings to its original source medium just as tightly as the Julia Roberts movie but the effect is smoother. After all, comic books are cinematic by their very nature, being a series of narrative images. Scott Pilgrim is also steeped in video game culture but for once that works in a movie since it's not an uncomfortable graft that's only there to please intended demographics. Not that Scott Pilgrim isn't preaching hard to its young male choir (Beautiful dream girls? Check. Nerdy guys winning them? duh! Reassuring messages about nerds being bad-asses when push comes to shove? Guess.) Scott's adventure to win Ramona is told in a series of seven setpieces (though it's not quite as simple as one battle per ex), the best of which are with two cocky lookers Brandon Routh (Superman Returns) as a vegan bassist and Chris Evans poking fun (at himself?) at the conceited action star type. The entire cast is really game for the stylized comedy including Anna Kendrick as Scott's bossy sister and Keiran Culkin as his gay roommate, who have quite a funny relationship. Michael Cera knows just how far to push both Scott's geek factor and his own star charisma and wins big laughs from things as simple as his drink choices (Coke Zero) and his line delivery whenever the word "lesbian" pops up. Which is often.
Eat Pray Love and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World are pitched
to entirely different audiences and their constituencies might well think that the other movie has nothing to say to them, but they'd be wrong. The message is the same, they're just speaking different languages. Scott Pilgrim is younger and more playful but has less heft (it's hard to raise the emotional stakes in a video game context) whereas Eat Pray Love is more literal-minded but has that 'last chance' true story pull. The takeaway is the same: To be your best self, you're going to have to be honest and forgiving; if you want true love, you're going to have to make peace with the past… or defeat it in battle. You vs. Your Personal Baggage. It's as if Hollywood is playing therapist and they've decided this is the message we all need to hear at summer's end.
Wine or Coke Zero? Your choice.