Movie Maniac

Sentimental journey: Eat Pray Love

"Eat Pray Love" is to chick flicks what Shark Week is to the Discovery Channel — the ultimate offering. The movie is based on the phenomenally successful memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert, who chronicled her journey of growth and recovery after a failed marriage. Think of it as "How Liz Got Her Groove Back."

The book was a hit (selling nearly 8 million copies in the United States alone), and it made an impassioned connection with women. So it's understandable to expect that the film will be a hit with them, too.

That means lots of men will be dragged along to see it, some of whom — like me — would rather chew shards of broken glass than watch a weepy romantic drama.

For them, we offer this guide to some of the more praiseworthy aspects of "Eat Pray Love," some that may elevate it above its cliched genre. See, things aren't so bleak as you thought.

* The story — Most romantic dramas are sappier than a syrup factory, and while "Eat Pray Love" certainly looks like it could be mushy, it's really about a personal metaphysical journey — and that's universal.

Julia Roberts stars as Gilbert, who goes on a quest to find her inner self after a painful divorce by taking a one-year sabbatical from her job to travel. The movie documents her trip and the people she meets.

* The star —Now in her 40s, Roberts still carries massive appeal, after such hits as "Pretty Woman," "My Best Friend's Wedding" and "Notting Hill" — smart, enjoyable films that weren't trite (and relied a lot on her personality). Granted, those films were a while ago, and this is Roberts' first film that she's carrying on her own in almost a decade (it's been 10 years since her Oscar win for "Erin Brockovich").

She was involved early in the making of "Eat Pray Love," so hopefully her personal interest will pay off with a good movie.

* The director —Ryan Murphy is probably best known as the mastermind behind the popular TV series "Glee." If he brings the same sense of humor and emotion to "Eat Pray Love" that he brings to the high school musical, then I'm sold.

But I also respect Murphy's creativity. He has an eclectic body of work under his belt: He also wrote and directed the dark comedy "Running With Scissors," and created the wonderfully twisted TV drama "Nip/Tuck."

It'll be interesting to see what parts of his personality he brings to this film.

* The eating —Foodies are bound to enjoy Gilbert's culinary discoveries in Italy. They're all photographed beautifully — pasta never looked so pretty.

* The praying —Gilbert's journey takes her to India, where she explores the power of prayer. Spiritual healing is good for everyone's soul, no matter how — or where — you do it.

* The loving —OK, OK, we're at the mushy part now — the word "Love" is in the title, after all. Gilbert meets several men on her journey (played in the film by Richard Jenkins, James Franco and Javier Bardem) and makes connections in different ways.

Finally, she finds peace and balance by falling in love in Bali. Hey, it had to happen somewhere. There at least has to be awesome scenery, right?

If you go

"Eat Pray Love"

What: Film based on the memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert

Starring: Julia Roberts, James Franco, Javier Bardem

Directed by: Ryan Murphy

When: Starts Friday (check The Eagle's GO! section for showtimes and theaters)