Eat Pray Love
Julia Roberts radiant in picturesque adaptation of the best-selling memoir
Published: August 13, 2010
Elizabeth Gilbert’s beloved and frustratingly self-absorbed 2006 memoir Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia has been made into a picturesque movie directed by Glee’s Ryan Murphy, and it loses nothing of Gilbert’s almost sinfully self-indulgent search for what she calls balance in her life. A gloriously aging and soft-with-a-few-pounds Julia Roberts plays Gilbert, an unhappily married travel writer who desperately wants to know what to do with her unsatisfying life. So she prays to God from the bathroom floor in the middle of the night during a rainstorm. Her baby-driven but immature husband Stephen (Billy Crudup) refuses to go on her latest writing adventure, which really seals the raw deal in her head, and she leaves him. She shacks up for six minutes with actor David (James Franco, practically playing himself). He shows Gilbert a photo of his spiritual guru (Gita Reddy), which sets a fire in her soul for the same sort of meaningful guidance and sets her on her way to the guru's ashram in India.
Seeking pleasure, distraction, enlightenment, and the means to fullfil her book proposal—her literary agent Delia Shiraz is played by the very funny Viola Davis, who should be doing more comedy—Gilbert takes on “One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia” for one year. Eating and giving up yoga, making love to pizza in Naples, not having sex but learning the Italian language, and buying bigger jeans with sweet Swedish friend Sofi (Tuva Novotny), Gilbert finds peace in being single while living passionately in Italy.
She moves on to an Indian ashram where she seeks prayer and meditation to get over her failed marriage and perform a complete break from rebound lover David. The wonderfully broken Texan, Richard (played by an emotionally rich Richard Jenkins), tries to help her empty her mind long enough to allow for forgiveness and closure.
Months later, Gilbert is in Bali seeking whatever a beautiful land can provide, with the help of her own toothless truth-teller Ketut (Hadi Subiyanto) and the handsome Brazilian Felipe (Javier Bardem), a jewel importer/exporter whose sexual healing proves love can set you free. Freedom from herself wasn’t the goal, but this “balance” she talks about finding isn’t really about eating well, meditating, and beauty, either—more realizing she requires travel and work in her life to be truly happy.
Roberts is absolutely radiant as Gilbert, and her scarves and cozy sweaters, colorful cotton Indian prints and wide-legged comfy pants, and short, swingy dresses do as much to display her willingness to absorb the culture around her as her openness to new people. She recalls Sex and the City's Carrie Bradshaw: self centered to a fault, but very quick to empathize when forced to get out of her own head.
Roberts makes Gilbert’s successful career and desirability understandable; she’s even likable. Hers isn’t the life for everyone—certainly not her past lover nor ex-husband—but finding her soulmate meant comparing passport stamps after meeting an untethered man.
> Email Wendy Ward