Eat Pray Love Review
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Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling memoir, Eat Pray Love, has been a book club staple since its publication in 2006. So, in adapting the book for the screen, director Ryan Murphy (whose other major release was the uncomfortably dismal Running with Scissors) had his work cut out for him. Though he already had a built-in audience, only time would tell if he could turn a beloved book into a light and lovable film.

Eat Pray Love follows recently divorced travel writer Liz (Julia Roberts) on a year-long quest to find herself. After walking out of her marriage and into a relationship with a younger man, Liz realizes that she’s spent her entire adult life jumping from one infatuation to the next. So she decides to spend a year traveling—four months each in Italy, India, and Bali—to take a break from relationships and focus on herself for a while.

Really, it’s hard to review Eat Pray Love as a whole—because it feels more like four separate movies, each with a different story to tell and a different point to make.

The first part focuses on Liz’s struggling marriage, her messy divorce, and her codependent relationship with aspiring actor David (James Franco). It gets the movie off to a rough start—because, despite her emotional prayers for help, Liz still comes off as rather cold and selfish.

Fortunately, though, things pick up once Liz arrives in Rome. There, she makes new friends and loads up on pasta and pizza—even though it means investing in bigger pants. Here, the film is filled with gorgeous footage of fountains, churches, cobbled streets, and (of course) plates and plates of mouth-watering Italian cuisine. It’s a beautiful and passionate ode to travel, friendship, and good food.

But the film once again takes a completely different tone when Liz moves on to India. While staying in an ashram, she learns to let go of the past, thanks to outspoken Texan Richard (Richard Jenkins). Jenkins’s enthusiastic, emotional, and often hilarious performance is a high point—and it’s the only thing keeping this sluggish part of the film from grinding to a halt.

Finally, though, Liz travels to Bali, where a wise old medicine man teaches her balance—and a handsome Brazilian (Javier Bardem) makes her consider giving love another try. The lush Balinese cinematography enhances the love story, but the message is clear: you need to find yourself before you can truly find love.

Individually, the four parts of the film are a bit uneven. Some are beautiful and captivating; others are slow and drab. Together, they make for an epic film—a long, leisurely-paced drama that, despite its unevenness, might make you take a good, long look inside yourself.

Though Liz often seems like a supporting character—secondary to the food, the culture, and the exotic locations—Roberts is perfect for the role. Her easy-going charm will make you want to join her on her adventure.

Granted, it’s all a bit schmaltzy and indulgent, but that’s the whole point: allowing yourself to take a step back from the pressures and expectations of everyday life and simply enjoy living (or, in this case, simply enjoy a fluffy, girly movie).

Although I would have enjoyed it a bit more if it had been about 45 minutes shorter, its emotional performances, lush cinematography, and moments of enlightenment make Eat Pray Love a slow but satisfying experience.

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