Julia Robert’s ‘Eat, Pray, Love,’ Movie Review

By Helena Chao
Helena Chao
Helena Chao
August 13, 2010 Updated: September 29, 2015

EAT PRAY LOVE: Julia Roberts plays the title character in Elizabeth Gilbert's autobiographical novel pictured in Italy.  (Francois Duhamel/Columbia Pictures)
EAT PRAY LOVE: Julia Roberts plays the title character in Elizabeth Gilbert's autobiographical novel pictured in Italy. (Francois Duhamel/Columbia Pictures)
Typically bestsellers adapted to the big screen don’t quite live up to expectations. That was my mindset walking into Ryan Murphy’s adaptation of “Eat Pray Love.” However, within the first 15 minutes into the movie, I was hopelessly smitten. After all, it IS Julia Roberts who proves that she’s still got it, in one of her most poignant performances to date.

And what’s not to love about Italy, India, and Indonesia, all three countries lending their unique landscapes, cultures, and healing powers to protagonist Liz Gilbert’s journey to self-discovery, after a heartbreaking divorce and failed relationship with her rebound.

Liz (Julia Roberts) seemingly has it all—a charming husband, a beautiful house in the suburbs of New York, and a thriving career. But deep down, she leads a hollow and unfulfilling existence. She reaches out to God, listens to her gut, and decides to leave behind her “life” (neatly packed into a New York City storage center).

First stop—Rome, Italy, where she learns Italian, finds pleasure in doing nothing, and eats her way out of heartbreak. Next stop—an ashram in India, where she prays, learns to find peace within, and forgives herself for leaving her husband. Liz then travels to Bali, where she begins to harmonize and balance her life and ultimately finds true love.

The film stays true to the book and plays out almost exactly as I’d envisioned it when I read the book. Ryan Murphy’s direction and skillful screenwriting adaptation brings the novel’s charm, poignancy, and emotion to life in such a way that it lingers with you even hours after leaving the theater.

Julia Roberts in 'Eat, Pray, Love,' pictured in India. (Francois Duhamel/Columbia Pictures)
Julia Roberts in 'Eat, Pray, Love,' pictured in India. (Francois Duhamel/Columbia Pictures)
Roberts practically lights up the screen in her beautiful portrayal of the tormented writer, seeking redemption and healing. Her nuanced, heartfelt performance brought many a tear to the women (and maybe even men) in the audience at my screening. My eyes certainly weren’t dry throughout the film! Lending their extraordinary talent in supporting roles are the gifted Billy Crudup, Viola Davis, Javier Bardem, and Richard Jenkins.

Many movies have been adapted for the big screen but very few of them have succeeded in doing justice to the book, much less enhancing the original inspiration. This one positively brings the book to three-dimensional life! You almost feel like you’ve lived Liz’s painful yet inspiring year, when you walk out of the theater.

Javier Bardem's character Felipe, and Roberts together in Bali, Indonesia. (Francois Duhamel/Columbia Pictures)
Javier Bardem's character Felipe, and Roberts together in Bali, Indonesia. (Francois Duhamel/Columbia Pictures)
This is what a movie should be—a journey filled with emotion, life lessons, tears, laughter, and lots of love. While the credit for the wonderful story lies with book author Liz Gilbert, kudos to Ryan Murphy for his skillful adaption and direction of the film.

Helena Chao