As the poet wrote, "Those who travel change only their skies, not their minds". Elizabeth Gilbert in her memoir of spiritual discovery believes otherwise, and her millions of readers would appear to back her. Will they also gorge upon this earnest film adaptation?
Julia Roberts plays Liz, who's all at sea having broken up her marriage and then abandoned a love affair with a cute actor (James Franco). Happily for her she has the money to take a year off and go travelling in search of personal fulfilment. What's notable about this is how Liz, whatever the location, and whoever her companion, never veers from her own impermeable self-obsession. In Rome she discovers the joy of Italian food and pretends to put on weight; in India she learns how to "forgive herself" and meditate in an ashram; in Bali she seeks wise counsel from a medicine man, finds love with a hunky Brazilian (Javier Bardem) and condescends to a little charity work on the side. "I don't know how to be here," she whines at one point, though she always manages to meet genial English-speaking types ready to make her feel better about herself.
On and on it goes, 140 minutes of tranquillising non-drama. Is there anything to wonder at in its journey to the centre of an ego? Only this – that Julia Roberts, one of the more thoughtful film stars, should have chosen to play the tremulous nincompoop herself.
Next week in Culture Club: 'Eat, Pray, Love'
Please email your views on the film, starring Julia Roberts as a woman who goes on a round-the-world journey of self-discovery, to cultureclub@ independent.co.uk. The best will be published next ThursdayReuse content