Christiana Gaudet

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A Review of the Movie Eat Pray Love

I have to admit I never finished reading the book Eat Pray Love. So many friends and clients recommended it, and a few gave me copies. The book’s biggest fans, I found, fell predominately into two categories; women who were self-reflective and women who were self-absorbed. In my limited downtime, I prefer easy-to-digest brain candy like a good sci-fi or mystery.

I did, in the snippets I read, get a sense of Liz Gilbert’s humor. I wonder what she said, or thought, when the great Julia Roberts was cast to play her in the film adaptation of her best-selling memoir. That is probably my biggest take-away from the new movie. If you can have a spiritual transformation and write a great book about it, Julia Roberts might play you in the movie. What more could a girl want, really?

If you don’t enjoy the movie Eat Pray Love, and many people won’t, it’s because you don’t need its message. If you find it trite, and may will, it is because you have yet to suffer in the quest for your own identity. Eat Pray Love is the story of a woman’s journey to Italy, India and Bali. But really, it is the story of her journey to herself.

Set against an international backdrop, Eat Pray Love offers a view of American neurosis.  In Italy, Liz commits to eat without guilt, and to learn “the sweetness of doing nothing.” This is a valuable lesson for those living in the pressure cooker from which Liz was lucky to escape.

In India, Liz stays at an ashram, and in finding God, begins to find herself. While there, she is promoted from floor-scrubber to hostess, learns to meditate, and is befriend by a recovering alcohol from Texas.

An early scene in the movie depicts Liz, while in Bali on a writing assignment, getting her palm read by a medicine man. His prediction is a guiding force for her journey, which concludes, as he had predicted, back in Bali. 

It is in Bali that the love part of Eat Pray Love happens for Liz. Here, she learns that she can find love without losing herself. Or a least we hope she does. The movie ends pretty quickly thereafter. We will have to read Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, Committed, to discover what happens in her marriage to Felipe, the Brazilian from Bali.

God is a central character in this movie. Much discussed in Liz’s voice-over narration, God is clearly not the Angry Sky Daddy of the Abrahamic religions. God is the international, inclusive God of the “Spiritual but not Religious.” God is the God of yoga, palm reading, kirtan and meditation.

Eat Pray Love is directed by Ryan Murphy. I didn’t realize who he is until I got home from the premiere and read some reviews online (mostly bad). Ryan Murphy is the creator of Glee; trite, sugar-coated, larger-than-life, message-y, highly entertaining Glee. Ah, now it all makes sense.

I was smugly pleased to see a magazine article recently saying that Glee was under some fire from conservative Christians for its moral messaging. I am sure that same group will find fault with Eat Pray Love, where God is found not in a church, nor in a book, but in oneself.

Eat Pray Love is a visually stunning movie. The soundtrack, like the movie itself, was aimed directly at my middle-aged female self, with snippets of Fleetwood Mac and Neil Young. The casting and acting were decent, although this is not the first time we have seen Julia Roberts cast as a woman afraid to love. Eat Pray Love just misses being The Runaway Bride Goes to Bali by a smidgen.

As I walked out of the theatre with my friends from the Awesome Mixers Social Activities Group, I had two things that stuck with me. I mean, besides the part about wanted Julia Roberts to play me when I write my memoir.

The first was from a scene early in the movie. Liz is helping change her friend’s baby. Liz wonders when her friend knew she wanted to be a mother. We can tell Liz is conflicted about the idea for herself. Her friend pulls a box from under the bed, and shows Liz that she has been collecting baby items for years, simply waiting for the right time to have the baby she had always wanted.

Voice-over Liz tells us that she has a special box too. Only hers is filled with travel guides and brochures. It made me wonder, do I have such a box, either metaphorically or literally? What’s in it?

The second thing was about words. In Italy, Liz and her friends suppose that each city might be represented by a single word. New York, for instance, was “ambition.” People, too, could be represented by a single word. Liz’s search for identity became a search for her word.

 The title itself, Eat Pray Love, divides neatly into the three places Liz spent time. But it wasn’t just that Liz ate in Italy, prayed in India and loved in Bali. It was that in Italy, she learned to eat. In India, she learned to pray. And in Bali, she learned to love. 

You don’t need to take a year-long international trip to make a spiritual journey, unless perhaps you are a professional travel writer like Elizabeth Gilbert. But the spiritual journey, by its very nature, involves learning. So if I were to title the memoir of my spiritual journey with three things I had learned, what would my three words be?

Eat Pray Love is a chic flick. See it with your introspective girlfriends and bring some tissues. Leave the menfolk at home. Enjoy the feel-good afterglow in meaningful conversation over several glasses of wine. If you have the wine beforehand, there is a chance you might fall asleep.