picture 11.pngSpecial to South Florida Times

After the  Sex and the City 2 disappointment, the odds of another box office hit for a chick flick seemed like wishful thinking. That is, until I remembered that Julia Roberts in all of her Julia-ness would be gracing the screen as the star of Eat, Pray, Love

Almost every woman I know has read Eat, Pray, Love, the real-life story by writer Elizabeth “Liz” Gilbert about her journey to happiness.  I haven’t because I’m too busy but it is on my booklist. 

Nonetheless, you don’t have to read the book to thoroughly enjoy the film.  But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

The main character, Liz, played by Roberts, is a writer who is in a marriage to a man who seems to be a child, jumping from one occupation or hobby to another.  Liz spends most of her time trying to make her marriage work but it’s not working.  So, she says a prayer to God for an answer to her problem. Her answer includes a trek from Italy to an Ashram in India to a beautiful villa in Bali. During that year-long search, she learns to reconnect with herself by eating, praying and loving.

Screenwriters Ryan Murphy and Jennifer Salt surely had their hands full writing this script, with some readers of the book regarding it as one big conglomerate of emotional and candid self-reflection and ultimately, courageous liberation.  To pack all of that into an average 90-minute feature-length film would have been no easy task.  So Murphy and Salt  compromised and settled for a two-hour movie.

Murphy directed a film that is both visually appealing and real, two concepts that don’t always seem to mesh well in a movie but he makes it work.  I love the scenic views, especially in Bali.  Liz’s hut, though unlocked and totally unsafe, is still gorgeous and a postcard to Bali.  How can anyone be sad living there?

But Murphy isn’t the only reason this film is so good.  It’s Roberts’ show and movie-goers are just lucky to be able to experience her star power.  She is luminous and happy from inside out. I can see why she doesn’t commit to every project that comes her way. Roberts' kind of talent can’t be thinned out in five films a year.

Viola Davis plays Delia Shiraz, Liz’s best friend and sounding board.  Davis has been the requisite friend lately but I’d like to make an appeal to filmmakers to please give this Oscar and Tony award winner meatier parts. She’s too good to just be someone’s friend. Sigh. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.

Javier Bardem is Felipe and a little unlike anything I’ve seen him in.  Felipe is so sensitive that he kisses his grown son on the lips and cries when his son goes back to college. He’s the perfect yin to Liz’s yang.

Hadi Subiyanto plays Ketut Liyer, a holy old man who is the catalyst for Liz’s departure from the world she knows to absorb other cultures and find herself.  

Billy Crudup plays Stephen, Liz’s ex-husband.  His unwillingness to forgive hangs over her like a noose, and is an issue that she must work through in order to find happiness.

Richard Jenkins as Richard from Texas is annoying and welcome, at the same time. You’ve got to love that kind of contradiction.  He bulldozes his way into Liz’s life and doesn’t let up until she has her catharsis, which is what she needs. Then, he’s gone.

Eat, Pray, Love is full of life, loving, emotions and lots of good eating. The pizza scene alone made me jones for a pizza, which I had to go eat after watching this film.

I love this film and I know the female readers will love it, too.  It may not cater to the men, who will whine to their girlfriends about having to watch it.  But, it’s not for them, anyway.

Kimberly Grant may be reached at KAliciaG@aol.com.