Eat Pray Love
Dressing to match the walls isn’t exactly fashion forward, Julia.

Theatrical Release Date: 08/13/2010
Director: Ryan Murphy
Cast: Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem, Richard Jenkins, James Franco, Billy Crudup, Viola Davis

Hollywood marketeers are hoping to counter-program the testosterone of “The Expendables” and the geeky, hipster sensibilities of “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” with “Eat Pray Love”, based on the same titled novel by Elizabeth Gilbert.

In the film, Julia Roberts plays Liz Gilbert (yes, she wrote about herself). Her marriage (to Billy Crudup) has collapsed and following a short rebound relationship with a younger man (James Franco), she jets off to Italy, India and Indonesia (Bali to be specific) … I wonder if Ms. Gilbert also felt like visiting Iceland, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, and Israel at some point? The point of her escape is to “find herself”. She hopes experiencing other cultures and trying to take stock of her life, free of romantic entanglement and full of spirituality and local cuisine, will allow her to reach that balance between internal and external forces.

Before I put in my two cents, I will say that the casting department did a wonderful job of casting everyone around Roberts. From Viola Davis to Richard Jenkins to Javier Bardem and everyone in between, the world of the film is populated with talented and interesting characters. Jenkins, especially, delivers one of the best supporting performances of the year so far and I would have preferred a film about his character and the crushing journey he has undertaken to find forgiveness.

To that end, one of the film’s downfalls is trying to pack so much into the 2+ hours. Although I could have gone for a shorter film to begin with, trying to encapsulate Liz’s journey through three countries over the course of a year takes time. In meeting a somewhat bearable runtime, it was hard to truly see what specific elements of her psyche found a measure of solace within each location.

As for Robert’s performance, it was a bit whiny and unsympathetic, with an occasional echo of her character in “Closer” (a much darker tone to that film allowed her performance to work quite well). To be blunt, how am I supposed to feel sorry for someone who looks like Julia Roberts, who supposedly loses all her money in a divorce, that can also afford to travel the globe for a year seemingly without any financial difficulty?

Obviously, there’s a market for stories and films like this. As a Food Network junkie, I’m just as prone to enjoying food porn as everyone else (though I’m not sure why director Ryan Murphy didn’t devote the same cinematic attention Italian food received to Indian or Indonesia cuisine). That’s about where I part ways with the production though. The largely female audience I saw it with seemed to eat up every little word, every morsel of food, and every new experience in Liz’s life. If you’re in the demographic, adore Julia Roberts, and adore romantic quests like a box of chocolates, then by all means go out and see this film.

However, if you don’t meet any of those requirements, you can safely avoid “Eat Pray Love”, watch some “Iron Chef” and sleep soundly at night. A 3 out of 5, I personally found the experience a bit infuriating and would rate it lower on an enjoyment scale but I’m giving it the passing rating because it delivers (no matter how safely and blandly) on its premise. I fully understand why there will be a big audience for the film, I just identify with everyone else.