Starring: Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem, Billy Crudup, Viola Davis, James Franco, Richard Jenkins

Director: Ryan Murphy

Writer(s): Ryan Murphy, Jennifer Salt, Elizabeth Gilbert (novel)

Cinematography: Robert Richardson

Original Score: Dario Marianelli

Running Time: 133 Mins.

Julia Roberts is a bona-fide movie star, not a (method) actor, meaning that when she inhabits a role, regardless of what lengths she may go to,  she is still “Julia Roberts movie star” which makes her character in Eat Pray Love, Liz Gilbert, quite hard to like, let alone sympathise with. I will put my hands up and fully admit I’m not a big fan of the lady, but she is capable of being likeable (in Pretty Woman) and can occasionally stretch those acting chops a little to be successfully bitchy (Closer, Charlie Wilson’s War) but all too often her winning smile falls on the wrong side of smug (Oceans 11, 12, 13, Notting Hill, America’s Sweethearts), and this is a combination I am afraid that does nothing for a story about “self discovery”.

Adapted from a novel/travelogue by the actual Elizabeth Gilbert Eat Pray Love clearly strives for a film that is aimed squarely at those women who find the cringe-worthy dialogue and obsession with handbags and all that is material in Sex and the City rather cloying (lets face it, that really should be ALL women if they had any sense) and on that front Eat Pray Love does offer the polar opposite, Roberts seeks meaning in her life, after two failed relationships (one a marriage) and the loss of most of her money (naturally, this being a voyage of self discovery) decides that to reconnect with the world she must visit Italy, India and Bali over the course of a year, using each of the titular elements to reinvigorate her life with meaning.

Playing out like an episodic travelogue (tied to the trappings of the book most likely) we plod from country to country and witness two things, firstly Gilbert’s emotional journey as she encounters a new set of friends in each destination who help her find…well have a guess, and in what order! While the second thing we are provided with is some rather well shot scenery, this is travel porn of the highest order and in the same way as The Karate Kid did this summer the film’s director chooses to fill endless frames with the admittedly beautiful scenery that is available to him. There are no prizes for guessing which element most enjoyment is to be derived from, especially when the highest praise I can lay at Eat Pray Love’s feet is its sweeping direction.

Not that the plot doesn’t provide some reprieve from a totally bland central character that you will fail to empathise with in any sense, as the episodic plot thankfully allows for a brace of great turns from Richard Jenkins and Javier Barden at once likeable any “real” the very two attributes Roberts really needed to find for any kind of success in her part, it’s not that she is enough to totally smite the film, it is to bland to offend that much, rather she seems somewhat miscast in a film that needed a more nuanced turn from a lesser name with more talent, had it been handled in that way this could well have edged closer to Into The Wild, the film it most closely apes yet falls short of each step of the way. On the plus side it’s better than Sex and the City

VERDICT

Eat Pray Love is a picture perfect travelogue that offers a journey of self-discovery for a Julia Roberts who manages to display all of her worse attributes in one film, thankfully some actual actors are on hand to add heft and enjoyment to the proceedings and offset the leading lady’s smugness.

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