I wonder just how many will feel inspired to just drop everything and go on a similar one year sabbatical to eat, pray and love, basically following writer Elizabeth Gilbert's autobiographical footsteps to discover oneself once more, and in the process rediscover life's little wonders away from the hustle and bustle of mediocrity and expectations, to cop out in a certain way and escape from it all, hopefully to emerge stronger than before. The premise is undoubtedly sexy, since if one person can do so and write about it, surely more can follow for that rare experience to be gained?
Julia Roberts plays yet another real life person in a bio-pic, where her Liz Gilbert reels from a broken, frustrated marriage, and is drained from rote and routine. She falls into the inevitable rebound, from breaking the heart of her estranged husband (Billy Crudup) and into the arms of an aspiring actor many years younger (James Franco), before deciding to go on a quest of self-healing, picking three countries almost at random to do what she wants to do, and that's Italy for pizza to reclaim her appetite, India to visit the guru whose teachings she had adopted, and then finally to Indonesia's Bali to revisit a medicine man called Ketut (Hadi Subiyanto) whom we meet at the start of the film, and bookends the story.
In effect, this film warns against obsession, and preaches that in life it's the natural balance that we seek. In essence it's a reminder to enjoy life's simple pleasures and not overindulge, because that will just make one sick of something, be it food or even from the person we love. It's almost metaphorical in the way how the title comes together, where we follow her Italian food binging from the margarita pizzas and the pastas, to being almost fanatical in her spiritual quest in India being amongst like-minded folks, before Love takes over to throw everything out the window, because that's what Love, being irrational that it is, does best.
Eat Pray Love becomes a travelogue of sorts unfortunately with how the exotic locales got shot for the film. I haven't been in India yet, but whatever transpired in Italy I can attest to the same, especially with the wonderful gastronomical delights, the comical way the language gets perceived, and especially how even when armed with a map, it's easy to get lost because the roads both major and minor aren't that easy to follow with that distinct lack of directional road signs. But that's all part of the fun I guess, when one is looking out for adventure into the unexpected. Bali is wonderful as well with its beaches and culture, and I sure would like to stay where Liz stayed in a resort-like, idyllic environment, kicking back and taking things easy.
Think of this film as three shorts being put together where Liz encounters people who will go on to shaper her perception of life and to give advice. This naturally mirrors how we go through life as well, where people hopefully with good intent walk in and provide us that glimpse of a facade we never knew we had it in us, or to bring out some of the best that we possess, or even being able to stop us in our tracks for self-reflection. These are peppered throughout the narrative and as you navigate through the story, which I have to admit does become long drawn out at some points quite unnecessarily. Fortunately we have the photogenic Julia Roberts as company, and we follow her through her character's moment of glum to happiness, with plenty of girly emotions thrown in to mix things up as well.
Especially when the topic of Love comes rolling along, in the form of Brazilian Felipe (played by Spanish actor Javier Bardem), where it dwells with Fear, where earlier in the film we learn of one character's fear in losing someone, but here it becomes a stumbling block to regain confidence and trust to get into another new relationship and to learn to love someone else back again. It's never easy of course, if you share similar experience, and it takes courage to take that leap of faith. Yes, this is that kind of film where picturesque locations are abound, and balanced with some chick flick sensibilities that just leaps out at you.
Going by the response in the theatres, I'm pretty sure Julia Roberts still has that box office clout to pull in the crowds, and I'm already wondering how the countries featured in the film will gain from a probable increase in tourist numbers from this side of the world. Now where should I go to get my batteries recharged in the same manner?