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Not enlightening: At times, Eat Pray Love seems more like a travelogue of exotic places than a chronicle of Liz’s spiritual journey post-divorce.
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★★★✩✩

Eat, Pray, Love

Directed by Ryan Murphy

Starring Julia Roberts, Billy Drudup, James Franco and Javier Bardem

Now playing

Eat Pray Love is a movie adaptation of the bestselling memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert of the same title. It’s a story of overcoming a life crisis and finding personal balance again.

At age 32, Gilbert was successful as a writer. She had a nice home and a husband who loved her, but was unhappy with her marriage. After a painful divorce from her husband, she started a romantic affair. The affair ended shortly afterwards and Gilbert was alone again. During that time she was sent to Bali to write an article on yoga vacations. There she met a ninth-generation medicine man who told her in a self-fulfilling prophecy manner that she would spend the next year travelling the world and that they will spend some time studying together in Bali.

This is the opening scene of the movie adaption directed by Ryan Murphy. Julia Roberts stars in the film as Elizabeth Gilbert. After eventually finalizing her divorce, Gilbert spends a total of one year traveling Italy, India and Indonesia. She enjoys her life and good food in Italy (“Eat”), taps into her inner spirituality in India (“Pray”) and ultimately finds her balance in Indonesia (“Love”). Overall, the movie adaptation tries to stay as close as possible to the original book to capture its very essence but it doesn’t have quite the same impact.

In Italy, Liz takes private Italian classes. She makes many friends, learns how to cook and enjoy life. Watching Liz indulge in all the great Italian food raises your appetite for pasta. Lucky are those who already have a reservation in a nearby Italian restaurant. Italy, Rome and even Naples look very clean in the movie, which makes those cities hard to recognize.

After leaving Italy, Liz spends most of her time in India staying in her ex-boyfriend’s most favorite ashram to find spirituality. There she meets another American from Texas (Richard) played by Richard Jenkins. Both of them try to overcome their own private sorrows through meditation. Richard is a rough but supporting fellow American who challenges Liz to face her past and overcome her burdens.

In Indonesia, during the final part of her journey, Liz finds both love and truth in Indonesia. She visits the medicine man again and falls in love with the Brazilian businessman Felipe (Javier Bardem). The film climaxes in the Indonesia portion as Liz is forced to confront and challenge her notions of balance and what it really means to ‘discover’ oneself.

Although the movie ends on a happy note, the overall ambience is mellow since there are many characters that have been hurt and are trying to overcome their own life crisis, healing their emotional scars. Julia Roberts is luminous as ever but the movie fails to capture the emotional weight of the original book. The movie provides many solid new scenes, such as when Felipe (Javier Bardem) displays his love for his son — crying and hugging him tightly after the end of a quick spring break. The cinematography is also well done with pleasing scenic views. Overall, Eat Pray Love is a piece of solidly crafted Hollywood entertainment. Ryan Murphy’s film is romantic, but not a comedy. It is charming but not inspirational. It is entertaining but not artistic and touching but not moving.