2010-09-03 / Entertainment/Lifestyles

MovieScope ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ – Searching For Herself

By Robert Snyder

Is it necessary to scour the world to find yourself? Writer Elizabeth Gilbert seems to think so. And many women do too, as evidenced by the popularity of her globe-trotting memoir, “Eat Pray Love.”

Now, taking up the cause is actress Julia Roberts in her film version of Gilbert’s work of a woman in search of her soul and herself. The trick is to complete the identity quest without merging with a mate, as in “man.” As Liz Gilbert, Roberts almost does it in 2 hours and 13 minutes of screen time, traveling to Italy, India and Indonesia.

Then, in the end comes Javier Bardem as Felipe, a Brazilian divorcé, who sweeps her off her feet in Bali. She resists initially because he’s throwing off the “balance” she acquired in India through yoga and meditation. But, this is a Hollywood movie, so it’s off into the sunset for the soul searcher and her soul-mate, making moot the message of the memoir.

To arrive at the Hollywood ending, Liz first must dump loving husband Stephen and too-young-lover-on-therebound David (James Franco), gorge on spaghetti in Rome and pizza in Naples, learn the inner-self thing in India and reconnect with former shaman friend Ketut Liyer (Hadi Subiyanto) in Bali. However, Ketut’s the one pushing her to poor Felipe, who should think twice before hooking up with a flip-flopper like Liz.

In the middle of the uneven movie, solid actor Richard Jenkins gives a riveting performance as Richard, an expatriate Texan, promoting the virtues of Hinduism to the wayward American woman. “Make your mind a vacuum, so all the love can pour in,” he says. Then, he proceeds to break down, revealing unbearable guilt from his part in a DWI incident involving his 8-yearold boy. The powerful moment makes him go back to Texas to face reality. He leaves Liz struggling to empty her mind alone.

It should be noted that the Italian sequences feature a lot of food, none of which seems particularly appetizing. The scenes culminate in a strugglingto button-jeans montage, so familiar in weight-conscious TV commercials. Such eating should make it easy to find oneself. With Liz’s self-centered voiceover narration, “Eat Pray Love” at times appears to copy “Sex and the City,” whittled down to one woman and without the fun.

Reportedly, star Roberts really did experience a spiritual awakening while filming in India. Maybe, she’ll stay with her shaman and out of Sarah Jessica Parker territory.

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