Eat Pray Love 

s a necessary contrast and perspective to our own humdrum existence, recharging our batteries and making the familiar tolerable again.

But how much would you have to hate your life to transform it into a permanent vacation? Or, more to the point, how much would you have to hate yourself?

In "Eat Pray Love," Julia Roberts ("Valentine's Day") stars as the insecure, self-loathing Liz Gilbert. She has the sort of career one sees only in movies: a writer who never seems to actually write anything, but has boatloads of cash available for sweet Manhattan townhouses and whatever else she wants.

She's married to Stephen (Billy Crudup, "Public Enemies"), a wishy-washy fellow who has made a career out of changing careers while living on her dime. They've been married since they were young, but have yet to produce progeny. Their life together is a series of upscale cocktail parties and shopping excursions.

One day, Liz realizes she doesn't love Stephen. No particular reason; she just wants out. She ditches him and moves in with David (James Franco, "Date Night"), a hunky young actor. They live together until Liz realizes she hasn't found herself, but rather a replacement Stephen. She ditches David and takes off for Rome before hitting India, and then Bali.

Along the way, Liz creates a series of surrogate "families." Despite several hot dudes who are dying to help her reach nirvana, she manages to avoid love until Bali, where she meets Felipe (Javier Bardem, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"). After some cat-and-mouse (which is, frankly, pretty boring), the pair establishes a shaky trust, which inevitably will be tested.

Ostensibly, "Eat Pray Love" is about a woman who never got the opportunity to explore her own identity, making the courageous decision to risk everything for a higher personal truth. In reality, it's about a self-centered woman who is dissatisfied with the multitude of blessings at her fingertips deciding to live as a full-time tourist, even if it means hurting other people.

While Liz herself is annoying, the story itself comes off as slightly insulting because of the way foreign countries are portrayed. Without exception, Liz's global world is filled with wise "characters" full of folksy wisdom tailor-made to validate her existential crisis. To be fair, this is adapted from a book by Elizabeth Gilbert, meaning there are so many characters that most of them are merely touched on, making them seem more like plot devices than people. Regardless, the story comes off as an exercise in wish fulfillment rather than a quest for truth. "?Mike Robertson

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