So this is the game plan du jour for a pretty woman with a doting husband and a healthy career, when she finds herself in a mid-life crisis—she divorces her husband, packs up and takes off on a journey across the world to “find herself” once again.
|PHOTO COURTESY OF SONY PICTURES RELEASING INTERNATIONAL|
Adapted from the mega-bestselling memoir by American author Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love is a lovely film—on the surface. It stars Julia Roberts, whose character Liz Gilbert goes to gorgeous Naples in Italy to eat, India to pray and meditate, and Bali (the island so hedonistically idyllic that it’s “the place where people go to have an affair”) to find love. In a misled, desperate attempt to find meaning, she even manages to squeeze in a whirlwind romance with a struggling actor, David (an under-used James Franco), before washing her hands off of him and hopping on the plane. As unfailingly effervescent as Roberts is, this is quite possibly her most trite and unlovable character to date.
In terms of tackling the subject of inner peace/self-discovery, the film adaptation takes a very coffee table book approach. It’s heavy on the gloss but light on the “meat”—the profundities that made the book a hit.
As such, Liz’s inter-continental traipsing comes across as more unaffecting and self-absorbed than life-transforming, with her innermost thoughts conveniently played out in flashbacks of her marriage and her fling with David. It’s the characters she meets on the way who add depth to her travels, such as Richard Jenkins’ character, a Texan who struggles to overcome his tragic past by seeking solace at an Indian ashram, and Javier Bardem’s Felipe, a Brazilian factory owner and doting father living in Bali with a penchant for calling everybody around him “darling.”
There are a few good laughs here and there, but as a somewhat belated coming-of-age movie, we ain’t buying into any of what Liz ate, prayed and loved.