Julia Roberts slurps spaghetti in Rome, pets a rogue elephant in India and rides a bicycle through a tropical forest in Bali in Eat Pray Love, the turgid adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir about a divorcee’s global journey of self-discovery.
It’s stuffed with picture-postcard sights, sounds and suggested aromas — enough eating and drinking for a Food Network special — but they can’t mask the underlying sappiness and bumper-sticker simplicity.
After divorcing her bourgeois husband (Billy Crudup) and having a rebound fling with a small-time actor (James Franco), writer Liz (Roberts) leaves New York for a yearlong sabbatical in Italy, India and Indonesia. She’s restless, miserable and ready to dramatically change her life.
The first stop is Rome, where she rents a rundown apartment with no hot water, befriends a cute Swede and her dreamy Italian boyfriend, tours Augustus’s mausoleum and eats so much that she has to buy bigger jeans.
Then it’s on to India, where she hunkers down at an ashram for prayer and meditation. She encounters Richard (Richard Jenkins), a tough-talking Texan recovering from a busted marriage ruined by his fondness for booze, drugs and sex, and Tulsi, an Indian teenager about to be forced into an arranged marriage. (The wedding, with its sparkling red dresses, is so brightly colored it made my eyes hurt.)
Liz’s final destination is Bali, she previously visited for a magazine story. There she reunites with Ketut (played by Hadi Subiyanto, a flutist from Jakarta), a medicine man who had predicted she would return and teach him English. Ketut is a combination of Tony Robbins and the Dalai Lama.
The other new man in her life is Felipe (Javier Bardem), a divorced Brazilian businessman with three kids and a broken heart. They dance and swim and hike together and before long we get to the love part of Eat Pray Love. However, complications arise, tears are shed and ... well, I’m sure you can figure it out.
Roberts, now a 42-year-old mother of three, looks terrific, especially in the flattering lights used by director Ryan Murphy. But she’s sabotaged by the trite script, especially the annoying Stuart Smalley-like narration. After watching this 2-hour, 13-minute melodrama I felt like I had just gorged at an all-you-can-eat buffet. I left the theatre feeling sluggish and queasy.
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