How can a romantic drama tailor-made for Julia Roberts from Elizabeth Gilbert's best-selling memoir about self-actualization—shot against alluring locales in Italy, India, and Bali, and directed by the acclaimed Ryan Murphy (TV's Nip/Tuck and Glee)—go so ass-numbingly wrong? Beyond Viola Davis, who spins her underwritten role as the heroine's loyal confidant into a resonant supporting turn, and Javier Bardem (playing the only three-dimensional man in the movie), few of the characters are sympathetic: Roberts as divorced author/journalist Gilbert could freeze a meteor with her steely reserve, Billy Crudup as her first husband flounders amid embarrassing cliches, the usually incandescent James Franco is wasted as her shallow lover, and the great Richard Jenkins alienates as the bully she meets in an ashram. As for the painfully preachy script, only hard-core fans of Oprah's BFF will be able to stomach this navel-gazing tripe, which posits "me-first" consumerism as the road to happiness.
Director: Ryan Murphy
Producer: Dede Gardner, Brad Pitt, Jeremy Kleiner and Stan Wlodkowski
Cast: Julia Roberts, James Franco, Javier Bardem, Richard Jenkins, Viola Davis, Billy Crudup, Mike O'Malley, Tuva Novotny, Luca Argentero, Giuseppe Gandini, Andrea Di Stefano, Michael Cumpsty, Sophie Thompson, Rushita Singh, Christine Hakim, Arlene Tur, David Lyons and TJ Power