Eat Pray Love's Viola Davis does big things with small roles

When a supporting actor is just as memorable as the lead in a film, you know that they are something special. Award-winning actress Viola Davis continues to enrich the films that she graces, and her role in Eat Pray Love is no exception.

Before I get to more on the wonderful Viola Davis I must tell you about the new film Eat Pray Love. The star is Julia Roberts and she plays Liz Gilbert, a woman on a quest to find her true self after divorcing her husband. Liz goes on a year-long journey and challenges herself to experience new things in order to bring more meaning into her life. She visits Italy, India and Bali and adventures ensue in each location. In today’s economy, most modern women can’t fathom taking a weekend trip let alone one for a whole year. So for most, the reality of something like that happening is rare, but what we all should be able to relate to are the possibilities of change, forgiveness, reconnecting with one’s self and falling in love again.

Roberts does fairly well in her portrayal of Liz Gilbert and you believe her earnest desire to change. But her performance is greatly enhanced by the supporting cast around her. Javier Bardem delivers as a love interest and a man who may have internalized more pain and trepidation than Roberts’ character about moving on in life. Richard Jenkins plays an ornery and ultimately life-changing example of a person trying to find peace and forgiveness for one’s self. And then there’s Viola.

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In this film, Davis plays Delia Shiraz, Liz’s best friend and publisher. Her main role is as a sounding board and voice of reason for Roberts’s character Liz. However, she also expresses her opinion when she doesn’t agree with the path her friend chooses. And she does all of this with ease from changing a diaper (she’s a new mother in the film) to accompanying her friend out on the town while looking quite fashionable. Furthermore, Viola’s character is in an interracial marriage, and the filmmakers maturely choose not to mention the racial component of the relationship because it’s simply part of the character. As with her past films, Davis places her stamp on her character and enhances the film in her supporting role.

So if she’s so good in her supporting roles it begs the question—when will she get her chance as a leading lady on the big screen? Broadway has clearly gotten the memo as she has garnered two Tony Awards, the most recent for her portrayal as Rose in the Broadway revival of August Wilson’s play Fences opposite Denzel Washington. Hollywood is starting to take note from her past performances in Antwone Fisher to her critically acclaimed performance as Mrs. Miller in Doubt for which she earned Academy Award, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations, as well as a Breakthrough Award from The National Board of Review.

One hopes that more roles will continue to be offered and written for such a worthy actress. Viola Davis possesses an immeasurable talent that should not just support but also be a headliner.