The trailer is dreadful. This one star review ain’t though.
Sit, watch, groan. Yawn, fidget, stretch. Eat Snickers, pray for end of dire film about Julia Roberts‘s emotional growth, love the fact it can’t last for ever. Wince, daydream, frown. Resent script, resent acting, resent dinky tripartite structure. Grit teeth, clench fists, focus on plot. Troubled traveller Julia finds fulfilment through exotic foreign cuisine, exotic foreign religion, sex with exotic foreign Javier Bardem. Film patronises Italians, Indians, Indonesians. Julia finds spirituality, rejects rat race, gives Balinese therapist 16 grand to buy house. Balinese therapist is grateful, thankful, humble. Sigh, blink, sniff. Check watch, groan, slump.
Film continues, persists, drags on. Wonder about Julia Roberts’s hair, wonder about Julia Roberts’s teeth, wonder about permanence of Julia Roberts’s reported conversion to Hinduism. Click light-pen on, click light-pen off, click light-pen on. Eat crisps noisily, pray for more crisps, love crisps. Munch, munch, munch. Munch, munch, suddenly stop munching when fellow critic hisses “Sshhh!” Eat crisps by sucking them, pray that this will be quiet, love the salty tang. This, incidentally, makes me plump, heavy, fat. Yet Julia’s life-affirming pasta somehow makes her slim, slender, svelte. She is emoting, sobbing, empathising. She has encounters, meetings, learning-experiences. Meets wise old Texan, sweet Indian girl, dynamic Italian-speaking Swede who thinks “Vaffanculo” means “screw you”.
Roberts eats up the oxygen, preys on credulous cinemagoers, loves what she sees in the mirror. Julia shags Billy Crudup, James Franco, Javier Bardem. Ex-husband, rebound lover, true romance. Crudup is shallow’n’callow, Franco is goofy’n’flaky, Bardem is hunky’n’saintly. We hate Crudup, like Franco, love Bardem. Divorced Javier is gorgeous, sexy, emotionally giving. About his ex-wife we are indifferent, incurious, uninterested. She is absent, off the scene, unnamed. That’s how Julia likes it, needs it, prefers it.
Movie passes two-hour mark, unfinished, not over yet. Whimper, moan, grimace. Wriggle, writhe, squirm. Seethe, growl, rage. Eat own fist, pray for death, love the rushing sense of imminent darkness. Scream, topple forward, have to be carried out of cinema. Reach life crisis, form resolution, ask editor for paid year’s leave to go travelling. Editor stands up, shakes head, silently mouths the word: “No”. Nod, turn, return to work. Personal growth, spiritual journeys, emotional enrichment? Not as easy as 1-2-3.
The fact is he is a really great writer.
I’ve just put down 1977, the second in the Red Riding Quadrilogy which is centred on a fictional backdrop of The Yorkshire Ripper killings in and around 1977 (but to be continued in the next in the series; 1980).
Although The Ripper enquiry is essentially the main plot device it’s really about police corruption which provides the main narrative flow. It’s about guilt. It’s about god. Does he exist? Can he forgive us our tresspasses (if we do not forgive others). Reeking with religious symbolism it is a horrific read with murder, rape and brutality leaping out of almost every page.
But it is mesmeric in its structure and his quite unique use of language.
This is way beyond the ambitions of most crime novels.
This is art.
I was looking forward to this, big style, on the basis of the crits I’d read.
I expected it to be dark, brooding and very engaging.
It is dark. It is brooding. But it is not engaging.
It is shot in a half light that is just plain dull and the performances, throughout, are at best subdued.
The plot is murky and very unclear. The dialogue is, at times, virtually impenetrable.
To be honest I can’t really be bothered reviewing this any more.
This is starting to confuse me.
Tonight’s episode was lampoonishly humorous. (But only funny in parts.)
And then horrifyingly depressing.
The rape was just awful.
The humour at times, likewise.
It may be the greatest combination of emotional manipulation ever.
But it might be the worst.
The jury is out.