A documentary by Kate Churchill. Rated PG. Opens Friday, September 4, at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas
When Enlighten Up! begins, you get the sense that Kate Churchill is about to rip the Lululemons off North America’s multibillion-dollar human-pretzel industry. The director points and laughs at the absurdity of a New York City studio called the Yoga Core Fusion Spa and sets the tone for a Morgan Spurlock–style skewering of a fad that’s long overdue for a critique.
Watch the trailer for Enlighten Up!
What follows instead is an only mildly amusing attempt by the yoga nut to impose her obsession on a neophyte. The setup is this: she will immerse out-of-work journalist and amateur rock-climber Nick Rosen in the world of downward dogs and mudras for six months to see if he can find enlightenment. The documentary’s biggest problem is that it doesn’t offer much transformation: Rosen, although hugely affable, just isn’t that into yoga.
Still, anyone who’s ever dropped into an Ashtanga class will enjoy his travels, which take Rosen everywhere from Big Apple studios where converts swear they reach orgasms during practice to Indian retreats where followers flock from around the world to perform extended headstands in crowded, sweltering rooms. Among the characters he has the privilege of meeting: modern-day yoga god B.K.S. Iyengar in India and L.A. pro wrestler turned yoga enthusiast “Diamond” Dallas Page, who offers up “more T & A than namaste”.
Meanwhile, Churchill’s central setup starts to feel strained. Rosen’s reporterlike questioning of each guru and gimmicky computer diary entries—not to mention Churchill’s growing impatience with him—make the roles of director and subject frustratingly confused. She wants Rosen to enlighten up, but she’s too taken with yoga to just lighten up.