Julia Roberts as Liz Gilbert in Eat Pray Love makes a turn in her career. By joining a friend as Liz moving to the big girl jeans a symbol of maturing, she changes from the Pretty Woman to an actress who can continue to entertain over a long period of time. She has come of age in her work this allows her to reach forward and not hold her future to pass success.
Director Ryan Murphy on the other hand appears to miss the target and essence of the Elizabeth Gilbert book. He uses soft backgrounds and lush sets both natural and constructed as the gentle frame for the film but fails to reach the heart of the matter. Compared to Audrey Wells who directed Diane Lane in her Under the Tuscan Sun, a similar story line this appears as a look at me rather than follow the path with me. Wells' direction was comprehensive and believable Murphy misses something in the believable arena.
Murphy did choose the best for his cast. Oscar nominated Richard Jenkins fits well as a confidant, semi-teacher and challenger on the journey from eat to love. Viola Davis as trusted friend Delia brings warmth and beauty to the story as someone who understands the journey and its cause.
The three events in the film take place across the planet beginning in Rome where eating is a wonderful diversion as Liz discusses and debates sex in life and relationships. She continues to look for marriage as she expects it to be but appears to miss the idea that folks change over time and acceptance of the alterations and evolution of a partner leads to success.
Hadi Subivanto's Ketut her spiritual advisor attempts to teach balance as Mr. Miyagi did in the Karate Kid. She uses her apparent wealth to take a year off and that travel enriches the tapestry of the film from the city of Rome to India and the South Pacific. It all ends in a boat floating to a private island; it's beautiful but even Bali Hai has its problems.
Eat Pray Love is mixed filled with fine performances but enclosed in a background that doesn't reach back to affect the characters or apparently resolve the problems Liz Gilbert carried into her life and in turn into this film. It is worth watching but Murphy missed an opportunity to create a powerful statement on the search for love and understanding of happiness.