Movies: Eat Pray Love **
(PG, general release)
At 42 and three-quarters, Julia Roberts has entered that awkward phase from which few females star manage to emerge intact.
In Hollywood's skewed and hypocritical universe, most actresses are discreetly kicked to touch once they reach the age of 40, and Roberts' career dilemma is compounded by the fact that her forté is romantic comedy.
For me, she's a genuine star who deserves to work until she drops, but if she's to do that she'll have to start choosing her roles a good deal more carefully than this.
I cannot speak for the quality of the bestselling Elizabeth Gilbert memoir on which this film is based, but watching Eat Pray Love certainly wouldn't encourage me to read it.
A kind of therapeutic travelogue, the film feels like going on an overlong holiday with someone who insists on reading their self-help books aloud to you.
Roberts is Elizabeth Gilbert, who when we first meet her is a successful New York writer who's unhappily married to a decent but fairly drippy man called Steven (Billy Crudup).
Elizabeth, who's a bit of a drip herself if you ask me, ditches him and takes up with a handsome young actor called David (James Franco), only to discover that this doesn't make her happy either.
She expresses this continuing dissatisfaction by saying things including, "I don't know how to be here., But before David has a chance to murder her (and what judge would not have acquitted him?), she decides to take off around the globe to find herself.
Liz has realised that she has flitted from one relationship to another, and has never spent any time on her own. So she does just that, in Italy, India and Indonesia. Well, not alone exactly, because that would have made for an even more tedious film than this one.
Liz is gregarious, and makes friends with a group of gourmands in Rome who teach her to love food again. In India, she spends months on end at a Buddhist prayer retreat, where she learns to forgive herself (too easily, in my opinion). And when she gets to Bali, she may or may not be ready to fall in love again.
Lushly but unimaginatively photographed, Eat Pray Love is painless to look at and about as illuminating as the back of a cereal box.
Ms Roberts is fine as far as it goes, but her character is a pain in the arse, and it's left to co-stars Richard Jenkins and Javier Bardem to expertly steal the show.