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Eat Pray Love (AF)


Stars: Julia Roberts, James Franco, Richard Jenkins, Viola Davis, Billy Crudup, Javier Bardem

Director: Ryan Murphy

Roberts, not for the first time, gives a performance that is essentially her wide, wide, wide, wide smile interrupted a few times with some more serious moments when her expression is more redolent of chronic constipation than anything else. And since she is the focus of this tedious travelogue interspersed with unbelievable drama larded with fortune cookie dialogue and largely facile psychology, her character’s year long journey in search of enlightenment, a journey that takes her to Italy (Eat), India (Pray) and Bali (Love) is one to be avoided at all costs, unless you are (a) a Roberts completist (in which case you have my sympathy) or (b) a cinematography addict in which case – unlike the narrative – there is much to admire in Robert Richardson’s magnificent colour cinematography. But while the film looks beautiful, as a watchable experience it simply fulfils that old Oriental saw “You can wrap a decayed toad in gold leaf but it still remains a rotting dead toad”.

Roberts plays a selfish, emotionally damaged divorcee who takes a year-long sabbatical, enjoying eating in Italy, prayer in India and laughable peace and enlightenment in Bali where she also finds true love in the person of dull and unshaven Bardem who looks as bored with what is going on as I felt. Other actors involved in the accident include Jenkins (bearded, possibly in the hope nobody will recognize him), Franco, Viola Davis (in the thankless role of ‘best friend’) and Crudup. Italians are patronized, ditto Indians and Balinese, to say nothing of the audience exposed to co-writer (with Jennifer Salt) and director Murphy’s version of a “inspiring true story”. As a travelogue, the locations are attractive in the finest National Geographic manner, as drama, it’s simply a long day’s journey into trite. Eat well, go straight to sleep and pray you never have to see the film.

For me Roberts (in character) provided the most apt review when she said (in another context, to be fair) "I know this is awful". So true, Julia, so true!

Alan Frank

USA 2010. UK Distributor: Sony (Columbia). Colour.
140 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 21 Sep 2010