Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 33
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

ITALY IS SUCH A BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY!: Liz (Julia Roberts) gazes pensively over the Tuscan city of Florence as she contemplates the first part of her three part quest around the world to find true love. To see if she succeeds, see the movie.

Eat, Pray, Love: Divorcée Embarks on Spiritual Journey in Adaptation of Memoir

Kam Williams

Whenever possible I try to avoid reading a book which has been adapted for an upcoming movie. This practice frees me to judge a film on its own merits instead of comparing it to the source material. Thus, this critic’s assessment of Eat, Pray, Love comes from yours truly who has not read Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir.

I did know, however, that Ms. Gilbert was a successful writer whose GQ article about her brief stint as a bar dancer at Coyote Ugly, a freewheeling saloon in New York City, was the inspiration for the motion picture of the same name. And I was also a little skeptical about the spiritual journey recounted in her runaway best-seller because she had received a six-figure advance from her publisher prior to leaving on her trip.

Capably directed by Ryan Murphy (Glee), Eat, Pray, Love, (the film), unfolds in a formulaic fashion. Think of it as a makeover movie where a female protagonist undergoes a major transformation before riding off into the sunset with Mr. Right.

Julia Roberts turns in an engaging performance in the lead role of Liz, an introspective playwright/journalist stuck in an unhappy marriage. Her husband, Stephen (Billy Crudup), is a nice enough guy, however, the couple has simply grown apart. Their big difference is that she has an insatiable desire to visit exotic places and he’s considering going back to law school.

What to do? What to do? Crying on the shoulder of her best friend (Viola Davis) doesn’t help. Nor does a fling with the handsome actor (James Franco), who is starring in Permeable Membrane, her latest Off-Broadway production. So, Liz files for divorce and crushes her husband’s heart in the process.

Awkwardly consulting God for advice for the first time in her life (“I’m a big fan of Your work.”), she is blessed with the Divine inspiration to embark on a year-long around-the-world journey in search of self fulfillment. Liz starts her trip in Italy to “eat” sumptuous feasts and take in the sights. After a four month stay, she travels to India to “pray” and deny herself sensory delights. Finally, she goes to Indonesia where, if everything goes according to plan, she hopes to find true “love.”

Along the way, Liz finds a boyfriend at each part of her trip: a Swedish tourist (Tuva Novotny) in Naples, a troubled Texan (Richard Jenkins) at an ashram outside Delhi, and in Bali, a handsome Brazilian multi-millionaire (Javier Bardem) who owns a boat.

The plot is more like a fairy tale than an earnest feminist quest for enlightenment. But that’s probably about the best you can expect from the author who has probably already optioned the rights to turn her story into a Hollywood biopic.

Very Good (3 stars). Rated PG-13 for brief profanity, sexual references, and nudity. Running time: 133 minutes. Distributor: Columbia Pictures.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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