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EAT, PRAY, LOVE (director/writer: Ryan Murphy; screenwriter: Jennifer Salt/based on the book byElizabeth Gilbert; cinematographer: Robert Richardson; editor: Bradley Buecker; music: Dario Marianelli; cast: Julia Roberts (Liz Gilbert), James Franco (David Piccolo), Richard Jenkins (Richard From Texas), Viola Davis (Delia Shiraz), Billy Crudup (Stephen), Javier Bardem (Felipe), Giuseppe Gandini (Luca Spaghetti), Tuva Novotny (Sofi), Christine Hakim (Wayan Nuriyasih), Hadi Subiyanto (Ketut Liyer), Rushita Singh (girl in ashram), Mike O’Malley (Andy Shiraz), Giuseppe Gandini (Spaghetti); Runtime: 133; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Dede Gardner; Columbia Pictures; 2010)
“Anice leisurely pace.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Lush photography of exotic locations by Robert Richardson, a nice leisurely pace by directorRyan Murphy (“Running with Scissors,” known for TV fare such asGlee and Nip/Tuck),an intelligent screenplay with meaningful life lessons by Jennifer Salt, all contribute in bringing the bestseller memoir byElizabeth Gilbert to life as an absorbing but strident woman’s pic about going on a spiritual trip after a bitter divorce and regaining one’s mental balance. Though the main character seems, whiny, shallow and self-centered, her trip for enlightenment is nevertheless believable and her jitters of moving into strange territory after letting go of her familiar surroundings seemed believable even if her adventures might seem superficial and might not appeal to those looking for a deeper spiritual commitment to finding one’s inner path (aside from the exotic spiritual trappings, that moves into being an inspirational pic, the film might appeal more to those looking at it as mostly a routine rom-com).

NYC dwelling middle-aged writerLiz Gilbert (Julia Roberts)dumps her playful husbandStephen (Billy Crudup) because of anunfulfilling marriage and takes up with a shallow young handsome actor, David (James Franco), in a relationship that also ends badly but on a friendly note. David introduced her to his new found female guru’s Hindu meditation study group and for the first time Liz begins to ask serious questions about the meaning of life. Liz confides her doubts about what she seeks to her stable, happily-married, best friend confidant, Delia (Viola Davis), and then goes on a year long journey to Italy (the eat part), India (the pray part, spent in the ashram of David’s guru) and to Bali (where she reunites with an elderly toothless medicine man, meets a lady healer and finds love). Liz’s publisher gaveher a generous advance to write this book, and that seems good enough to live in Rome like a rich American and tour the trattorias dining for four months on mouth-watering Italian cuisine and hanging around with a group of ultra-friendly folks.At the ashram Liz meets a damaged middle-aged divorced man from Texas(Richard Jenkins), who ruined his life being an alcoholic and is now struggling to get himself together to get on with life and learn to love again. Liz also meets a young girl (Rushita Singh) who fears her upcoming arranged marriage won’t work. Before leaving, without meeting the guru (who ironically is in New York) Liz learns that God dwells in her. In Bali, Liz reunites with Ketut (Hadi Subiyanto), the medicine man who can tell her fortune by reading her palms but doesn’t remember her until she tells him everything he said on their last visit a few years ago (leaving us uncertain whether he remembered her or not). When Liz cuts her leg, Ketut sends her to a lady healer (Christine Hakim, Indonesian screen legend). The two healers repair her soul along with her physical ailments, and Liz’s now ready to find love with a gentle divorced Brazilian import-export businessman, Felipe (Javier Bardem), living in luxury in Bali, and sails off in the beautiful sunset with him.

It was hard to get what was going on in Liz’s head without it being externalized through her voice-over, her lovers, her friends, her fellow-travelers and the wise gurus. All the positive messages came out flat, even though they made sense.But it’s a film tailor-made for Julia Roberts, and at the end of the day I believe her performance was spot-on, effectively showing her insecure side and that she did go on a genuine inward journey and went through some change even though she could never give up her “me-first” consumerism. The target female viewers might get a spiritual uplift from this seemingly easy globe-trotting fantasy wish-fulfilling way to get back one’s life after man trouble, as Julia’s need for self-examination seemed earnest and how she did it was both entertaining and authentic (whether or not you thought much of her inner journey). If you don’t expect this pic to read like Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, I think one might find its breezy journey around the world to be just the right medicine for those multitudes not ready to completely surrender their ego to find nirvana.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”