| America’s sweetheart Julia Roberts is back on screen with her best role since “Erin Brockovich,” for which she won an Academy Award. She teams up with director Ryan Murphy, the current ruler of prime-time television as creator of “Glee,” “Nip/Tuck” and “Popular.” The source material is the 2006 semi-autobiographical finding-myself memoir by New York-based author and essayist Elizabeth Gilbert that has sold more than 6 million copies and been endorsed as a feature selection in the Oprah Winfrey book club.
This movie has been under such tight wraps that the built-in audience of devoted women over age 30 was getting uneasy. It turns out to be more than you could have wished for. Carrie Bradshaw and Bridget Jones need to move over and make room for Liz Gilbert (Roberts) in the chick-lit sisterhood sorority.
After a painful divorce and a rebound affair, Gilbert embarks on a year-long journey of self-healing, staying four months each in Italy, India and Indonesia. The titular verbs represent her principal objective in each country. She makes friends easily and meets some amazing people who change her life.
The screenplay captures the spirit and essence of the book. It will make you want to read the book if you haven’t already. This movie gives the viewer an inner peace and a chance to feel a little more human. The pacing is solid despite a133-minute running time and you get so caught up with the characters that you never want this exotic fantasy to end.
The radiantly beautiful Roberts doubles as the voiceover narrator, expressing her character’s thoughts and feelings. She has that indescribable knack to win you over and comes through with flying colors in this very emotional lead role. Roberts’ facial expressions highlighted by revealing eyes guide us through the transformative arc and eventual enlightenment of her complex character.
The supporting cast of top-flight talent is led by Richard Jenkins (“The Visitor” and “Six Feet Under”), Javier Bardem (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” “No Country for Old Men” and “The Sea Inside”), James Franco (“Milk” and “James Dean”), Billy Crudup (“Watchmen,” “Big Fish” and “Almost Famous”) and Viola Davis (“Doubt” and “Antwone Fisher”). Jenkins is amazing, with standout supporting work that deserves serious Oscar consideration.
The movie was shot on location in New York City, Rome, Naples, Delhi and Bali. The movie’s strengths include the luscious cinematography of the scenic surroundings by two-time Oscar winner Robert Richardson (“The Aviator’ and “JFK”), a simply divine musical score from composer Dario Marianelli, and a sumptuous pasta and pizza menu where every gourmet dish looks better than the next.
Men need not apply at this touchy-feely all-girls club. The story is told from a female perspective and the main character’s desire to escape from the labels of daughter, girlfriend and wife. Her quest to find balance in life and love again without losing her own identity makes this one of the best movies of the year. Some of the dialogue is in Italian with easy-to-read English subtitles.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"