“Eat Pray Love” provides exactly what it should to satisfy its core audience: a gorgeous escape, exquisitely photographed and full of female wish fulfillment.
Yet it also offers sufficient emotional heft and self-discovery to make you feel as if you’ve actually learned something.
It’s easy to see why author Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir became an international phenomenon. Everyone’s looking for something – for answers, for their true and higher purpose – and Gilbert had the fortitude (and the wherewithal) to take off alone on a journey around the world to find herself after her divorce.
Julia Roberts is radiant as ever as Gilbert, and director/co-writer Ryan Murphy (“Glee”) allows her to show off her full range with plenty of hard-core hanky moments. Even cynics (or the vast majority of men) would find it hard not to be impressed by the lush visuals and moved by some of the performances.
“Eat Pray Love” is the story of how successful author Liz leaves her husband (Billy Crudup), then her much-younger boyfriend (James Franco) when she realizes she’s losing her identity, then New York entirely.
Her first stop is Italy, a place she’s always wanted to visit, where she immediately falls in love with the people, the sights, the language. This would be the “eat” portion of our adventure, and the scene in which Liz takes on a plate of spaghetti plays like food porn.
Next, she’s off to pray at an ashram outside New Delhi. Finally, she finds love in Bali, where she visited at the beginning of the movie and returns to learn from the elderly medicine man who prompted this whole journey.
Since “love” is in the title, we know Liz will find it, so there’s not a whole lot of suspense. Still, Roberts’ scenes with Javier Bardem sparkle because … well, he’s Javier Bardem.
Beautiful as it is, the Bali section is overlong and it wraps up the film with the kind of romantic comedy cliches that, for the most part, were blissfully absent from the first two-thirds.
Still, “Eat Pray Love” will make you want to head out for wine and pasta with your girlfriends afterward. Any excuse will do, and this is a good one.