All narratives have journeys, many of which focus on journeys of the heart and self-discovery for a particular person. 'Eat Pray Love' is one such journey for a recently divorced, deeply unhappy and self-absorbed journalist, played by movie megastar Julia Roberts.
Roberts' career has been a mercurial mix of masterful acting - most notably in 'Pretty Woman' and 'Erin Brockovich' - and disappointing turns - 'Michael Collins' springs to mind in that department. 'Eat Pray Love' definitely fits into the former category. The film is the perfect vehicle to convey Roberts' range as an actor and she fully takes advantage of the opportunity.
Her assured and realistic performance in 'Pretty Woman' was embedded within a naïve character; 'Eat Pray Love' is a performance at the opposite end of the spectrum. Here is a script that allows her to play the role of a woman approaching middle age, desperate to finally find herself before it is too late.
Roberts plays Liz Gilbert, a New York journalist who seems to have it all: money, house, husband and dreams of children. One night she realises that she hates her life. She climbs into bed beside her husband and tells him: "I don't want to be married." Pretty harsh on the guy who was trying to get forty winks at the time.
Liz gets the divorce she wants and then freaks-out as she realises she has no idea what to do next with her life. After some fraught scenes of the beautiful redhead worrying away, she decides she will travel the world and will live in Italy (Eat), India (Pray) and Bali (Love).
The film is an adaptation of the bestselling true-life story of the same name by Elizabeth Gilbert. The book has over seven million copies in print and fans of the story will no doubt flock to the cinema to see Gilbert's experiences recreated on the silver screen.
I have not read the book, and faced with the choice of watching a chick flick or 'Predator', Arnold Schwarzenegger's masterpiece wins every time. However, I am going to risk public ridicule by admitting that chick flicks can be enjoyable for a bloke too. This effort in that genre is far from awful, and gentlemen will be able to put up with it.
Roberts' compelling portrayal of a mid-life crisis is well-rounded and her character enters areas that men and women the world over can relate to.
The cinematography and scenery of the three countries that Roberts' character travels to are breathtakingly sumptuous and keep you intrigued on a visceral level. This is no surprise considering cinematographer Robert Richardson has the kind of CV that makes viewers sit up and take notice: 'Shutter Island', 'Inglourious Basterds', 'The Aviator', 'Kill Bill Vols I and II', 'Bringing Out the Dead', 'Nixon', 'Casino', 'Natural Born Killers', 'JFK', 'Born of the Fourth of July', 'Wall Street' and 'Platoon'. In short, this guy is a legend of his art and anything he films is worth seeing.
There is one major problem with 'Eat Pray Love', though: it is 139 minutes long. While the script and characters engage for the most part, there are moments where the narrative sags and no matter how many amazing shots cinematographer Richardson gives us, saggy narrative is inexcusable.
That said, the story of looking for happiness and contentment is something that plays on all our minds and Liz's journey has enough twists and turns to prevent 'Eat Pray Love' from fading away.
Any film with the lines, "Your love is like a warm panini" and "When I look in your eyes I see dolphins clapping" clearly demonstrates an ability not to take itself too seriously. If you apply the same philosophy to watching 'Eat Pray Love' then you will enjoy it.
Now, I must get on to Sony Pictures about that Julia Roberts interview...