Movie studios scramble to have big-name stars headline their films, but in many of my favorite movies food is the star. Few things are better than pairing a foodie film with a great meal so we can enjoy ourselves just as much as the folks onscreen are enjoying their own aliments. In this series, we'll highlight a movie in which food plays a leading role and suggest one or more local spots that can provide an accompanying feast for you. Pull up a table and dim the lights, the show's about to begin.
Synopsis Eat Pray Love is based on the autobiographical novel by Elizabeth Gilbert. The film opens with Liz (Julia Roberts) in Bali, riding her bike to see a healer, who tells her she will have two marriages, will lose all her money but get it back again, and will return to Bali someday to teach him English.
The film then cuts to New York, where Gilbert is at a party. Though she has a successful career, a loving husband (Billy Crudup), a house, savings and anything else the modern woman could want, Gilbert finds herself unhappy with her life. In the middle of the night, she gets out of bed and prays, not really knowing how, and she hears God tell her to go back to bed. When she lies down again next to her husband, he says he doesn't want to leave New York. Gilbert says she doesn't want to be married.
The couple separates, and Gilbert begins dating an actor, David (James Franco), who tells her that his inner peace and calm are the result of his relationship with his guru, whom he met in India. Gilbert decides that she needs to take some time off to travel. She plans to go to Italy, then to India to meet the guru, then finally to Bali to see the healer again, hoping to find herself somewhere along the way.
To avoid spoilers, skip directly to page 2.
In Italy, Gilbert meets Sophie, Giovanni and Luca, and the three teach her to speak Italian, eat Italian food and enjoy taking time for herself to just do nothing.
In India, Gilbert finds out the guru is in New York, and she initially has trouble learning to clear her mind and meditate. Eventually, she meets Richard the Texan (Richard Jenkins), who helps her learn how to forgive herself for her divorce. Gilbert becomes a hostess for new travelers at the sanctuary and relishes her role as a sort of leader.
Finally back in Bali, Gilbert returns to the healer, who says that before she looked sad, and now she looks happy. Gilbert agrees to help the healer by transcribing his scrolls, but on the way to photocopy them one day, she is nearly run off the road on her bike by a man, Felipe (Javier Bardem), whom she later gets to know. The accident results in a cut on her leg, though, so Gilbert goes to see a medicine woman, Wayan, who lives with her daughter, Tutti. Wayan is also divorced and tells Gilbert that, in order to keep her daughter in the divorce, she had to give everything she owned to her husband
Later, Gilbert and Felipe begin a relationship. She learns that he, too, is divorced and still hurting from his failed marriage. After spending a lot of romantic time with him, Gilbert puts her efforts into raising money from her friends in America to build Wayan and Tutti a house.
Gilbert becomes concerned about jumping into a relationship with Felipe so soon, so she breaks things off with him. The healer tells her that she should go for it, and the film ends with the two of them sailing off to another island together.
This story continues on the next page.
Why this is a foodie film Before we go any further, I just have to say that I read this book and saw the movie, and I wasn't fond of either. I thought the book was poorly written and self-indulgent, and the movie was just kind of blah. Aside from the beautiful scenery and awesome food, that is. In my opinion, the only redeeming qualities in this film are Richard Jenkins and the food, especially in Italy.
While traveling in Italy, Gilbert decides that she's tired of regretting what she eats because it might make her gain weight. Instead, she embraces a few extra pounds and, in doing so, embraces the food even more.
In spite of the fact that Eat Pray Love does fall victim to a lot of overly spiritual mumbo-jumbo, the spiritual experiences Gilbert has with food and the way the music and cinematography contribute to these moments are powerful components. Not only in Italy, but in India and Indonesia as well, Gilbert's discovery of new spices and new fruits is akin to those magical moments we experience when we try something for the first time.
Best food scene
In Italy, where much of the food consumption takes place, two of the most important things in life are food and romance. In this scene, the two seem to blend together, as a couple engages in intimate acts in the street while Gilbert engages in an intimate moment with her spaghetti. The fact that the scene is set to an aria just makes it even better.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
What you should eat When I want to feel like I'm sitting in an Italian trattoria, I go to Giacomo's Cibo e Vino for some traditional Italian food in a cozy setting. The pappardelle al telefono would probably be most similar to what Gilbert eats in the scene above, but all of the food at Giacomo's is prepared thoughtfully, so you can't really go wrong.
From there, head over to Paciugo Gelato and Caffé for an after-dinner espresso and some pistachio-almond gelato. You'll be in a little shop in West University, but if you close your eyes, you'll almost feel as if you're in Rome.
Alternatively, you could do what Gilbert did by starting in Italy, then moving on to India and Indonesia (though attempting all three in one night will leave you very, very full.) Start at Giacomo's, then move on to Pondicheri for amazing, upscale Indian food, followed by Rice Bowl II Restaurant on Bellaire for some no-nonsense Indonesian cuisine.