Now I have to read Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling memoir – because this tepid travelogue of a self-involved yuppie writer can’t be what’s inspired so many women.
Radiant Julia Roberts plays Liz Gilbert, an ambivalent, well-to-do New Yorker who, after visiting an elderly guru (Hadi Subiyanto) in Bali, divorces her adoring husband Stephen (Billy Crudup) to embark on a New Age journey of self-discovery, beginning with a fling with a hunky, much younger actor, David (James Franco). Having seemingly unlimited time and money, she then decides to visit Italy – for the food – then India – to find God – and, finally, back to Indonesia – where, unbeknownst to her, awaits a
delectable divorced Brazilian, Felipe (Javier Bardem), who’s smitten at first sight. But can Liz ever truly balance her need for independence with her longing to be loved?
Having achieved fame and fortune for creating the TV series “Nip/Tuck” and “Glee,” Ryan Murphy wrote the trivializing, episodic screenplay with Jennifer Salt and he directs it at what could be generously described as a leisurely pace with Robert Richardson’s cinematography emphasizing sumptuous scenery and succulent meals. Prominent Roman restaurants include L’Orso near Piazza Navona, famous for their antipasti, and Osteria Del Antiquario, between the Piazza and St. Peter’s, along with popular L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele in Naples, which serves an awesome 180 pizzas every hour. And idealized, colorful scenes of these enlightening, edible orgies are spiced with appropriate music.
Wherever she goes on this earnest, if tedious, self-help quest, shrill, self-analyzing Liz makes empathetic female friends (Viola Davis, Tuva Novotny, Rushita Singh, Christine Hakim), but her most memorable encounter is at a Hindu ashram outside New Dehli, where she bonds with a cantankerous, straight-talking Texan, Richard (Richard Jenkins, delivering an authentic, astute performance), whom she accuses of “speaking in bumper stickers.” (As a side note: Roberts and her family reportedly converted from Christianity to Hinduism during the filming.)
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Eat Pray Love” is an exotic, escapist, superficially spiritual 6. It’s shallow, indulgent, female wish-fulfillment, sailing off into the sunset.