Eat Pray Love
dir Ryan Murphy
prd Dede Gardner
scr Ryan Murphy, Jennifer Salt
with Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem, James Franco, Richard Jenkins, Viola Davis, Billy Crudup, Hadi Subiyanto, Christine Hakim, Tuva Novotny, Luca Argentero, David Lyons, Andrea Di Stefano
release US 13.Aug.10, UK 24.Sep.10
10/US Columbia 2h13
Eat Pray Love
Bali high: Bardem and Roberts

franco jenkins davis
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Eat Pray Love An intriguing story brimming with possibilities is softened beyond all meaning by this glossy Hollywood production. Without a sharp edge in sight, the film is merely a cute romp that touches on serious issues but never breaks the surface.

When New York writer Liz (Roberts) decides she's tired of her loving-but-aimless husband (Crudup), she has a rebound romance with a young actor (Franco) before deciding to travel the world to find herself. Her sassy friend Delia (Davis) thinks she's crazy, but Liz takes off for Rome, where she discovers food and friends (Novotny and Argentero). In India she seeks inner peace with a fellow traveller (Jenkins). And in Bali she studies with a guru (Subiyanto) and falls for a Brazilian (Bardem) who has baggage of his own.

It's terrific to see a film in which an independent woman drives the plot (as opposed to those men- and shoe-dependent Sex and the City girls), deploying her powers of observation and creativity to work out the kinks in her life. But the solutions to Liz's inner turmoil are almost ludicrously glib; even though it takes a lot of soul-searching for her to triumph over her inner demons, her struggles pale in comparison to the people she meets along the way. All of them are more connected with the realities of life.

This is an odd misstep for Murphy, whose work on Glee shows an ability to observe hard truths about human nature. But here everything is warm and beautiful, from Roberts' face to the lovely scenery and bustling streets. Answers come pretty easy for Liz, whose real problem seems to be that she has forgotten how to really smile. Which is frankly impossible to believe about Roberts.

That said, Roberts holds the film together with sheer steely charm. Bardem is simply irresistible. Franco and Jenkins try to add depth to their characters when they're not offering twinkly smiles. And Crudup is very good in a thankless role. But of course the real stars of this film are the plates of pasta in Italy, the colourful costumes in India and the staggering landscapes of Bali. They'd make anyone feel better about their life.

cert pg themes, language, mild innuendo 20.Sep.10

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