08/13/2010 08:53 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Eat Pray Love ? Try Cairo Time instead

Another appointment demanded that I leave the screening of Eat Pray Love before it was over, about 100 minutes into the film, just around the time that Julia Roberts, as wandering writer/spiritual seeker Liz Gilbert, had landed in picturesque Bali, in search of herself.

There, no doubt, she spent the next 40 minutes learning to forgive herself for choosing the wrong men. In that way, she would now be able to learn how to get involved with Javier Bardem, under tropical and sunset-lit Bali skies -- and eat and pray that he's the one to love.

I saw about as much of Eat Pray Love's 140-minute running time as there is to the entire length of Ruba Nadda's Cairo Time, just now expanding on the arthouse circuit (and VOD). The two films have similarities that can't be overlooked -- but I'll take the quiet, beguiling Cairo Time over the picturesquely feel-good Eat Pray Love, thanks.

Both Eat Pray Love and Cairo Time deal with solo American women abroad: Patricia Clarkson as the married magazine editor, Juliette, meeting her husband in Cairo; Roberts as the writer Gilbert, who finds herself -- through food, prayer and romance -- while traveling in Italy, India and Bali.

In many ways, both are interior films, seen from the points of view of women traveling by themselves. Juliette is supposed to meet her diplomat husband, who is called away from Cairo just before she arrives. She must fend for herself in a foreign culture that is not particularly female-friendly.

Roberts' Gilbert is also taking a journey of discovery, following her escape from an unsatisfying marriage and further flight from a live-in attachment with an actor and spiritual seeker (James Franco) that quickly gives her the same feeling of being shackled as her marriage. So she's out to circle the globe and find out who she really is, awash in guilt at leaving these men behind.

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