Review by: Ryan Oliver
We’ve all had those days where we’ve felt overburdened by the complications of everyday life, whether it be a relationship, work, or just the stresses of planning for the future. For most of us, it’s a pipe dream to go on a soul-searching vacation. In Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (Julia Roberts) made it a reality. After a crumbling marriage with her husband (Billy Crudup) and a failed rebound relationship with a young man (James Franco), she leaves her life in New York behind and goes on a year-long trip. She visits Italy (to eat), India (to pray), and Bali where she ultimately falls in love with Felipe (Javier Bardem), another fellow divorcee.
The film is based on the memoir of the real Elizabeth Gilbert who took this wonderful trip. I have never read the book personality, but I feel there are things that may have had more emotional impact in the book than in Ryan Murphy’s (creator of the highly overrated Glee) film. I didn’t believe for a second that there was any spark in Gilbert’s relationship with Crudup or with Franco. I know that both of those relationships ended, but I didn’t feel any connection between them at any point. There were also times that reminded me of an episode of Family Guy where Peter tells Lois’s dad “You’re going to love it here, even more than Julia Roberts loves herself.” It was scenes where you couldn’t help but wonder why such a wealthy and beautiful woman would need to find herself? These scenes had more whining than honesty.
However, by the time she finishes in Italy, you lose sense of the whininess and you actually care about Gilbert’s journey. You care about what she’s doing and what she’s going to do next. On top of that, the movie was shot on location in all the places that Liz visits, so we get some beautiful shots of these cities, even if we get too many extended sequences of her eating and praying.
Julia Roberts is a class actress all the way. She’s too good to play this character with only one dimension, and even when the movie slumps – which happens more than once in it’s unnecessary 2 hour and 20 minute runtime – her starpower shines through the cracks. There are also some really compelling scenes with the supporting players as well, most notably Richard (the always fantastic Richard Jenkins), a man who she meets in India trying to forgive himself for his dark past with his family. Javier Bardem is also terrific and charming as the man she eventually falls in love with. Though the film has too many snags and slow parts to give it a full-on recommendation, it’s beautifully shot, thoroughly entertaining, and has a great central performance by Julia Roberts that doesn’t make it too tormenting for those outside the target demographic.
Eat Pray Love
Directed by Ryan Murphy
Written by Ryan Murphy and Jennifer Salt; based on the book by Elizabeth Gilbert
Stars Julia Roberts, Billy Crudup, James Franco, Javier Bardem, Richard Jenkins
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexual references and male rear nudity
**1/2 (out of four)