Over Thanksgiving, I watched Eat Pray Love with my mom. I'm not a huge fan of memoirs, so I never had any desire to read the book; but the movie has several cute guys in it, and who doesn't love Julia Roberts?
If you've been living under a rock for the past few years and have no idea what the book's about, it's the true story of Elizabeth Gilbert, who was in her early thirties and lived in New York with an awesome baker husband and a sweet writing career. At the start of the movie, she meets a wrinkled medicine man who tells her she'll lose her husband and all her money, but come back to visit him in Bali, and regain her money.
After Gilbert returns to New York City, girlfriend starts freaking out. I'm pretty sure she starts having a mid-life crisis, because all of a sudden she HATES her husband, who seems adorably devoted to her, and really her entire life. So, she files for divorce.
But this doesn't help Gilbert feel better. Before you can say, "Holy crap that play is awful and I really hope she's not the one who wrote it," Gilbert is hooking up with a rebound boy toy, an actor who stars in one of her plays. If there's a better cure for the post-divorce blues than James Franco, he wasn't in this movie. Yet STILL, Gilbert continues an emotional tailspin. After much emoting to her best friend, she runs away to Italy, India, and Bali for a year.
Who hasn't wanted to run away from all the crap in their life? God knows I have. This difference between Gilbert and the rest of us, however, is that Gilbert actually did it. With a generous advance from her publisher.
Before that, I thought the movie was a little pretentious. After Gilbert headed off to Italy, it definitely improved, even though I still found it difficult to connect to Gilbert's character. She seemed a little, how shall I say... self-involved? Emotionally needy? Honestly, if you want to find out what it's like to live without a boyfriend, that's a relatively easy problem to solve. Trust me on this one. I've never had a problem with eating food, either, so the whole thing in Italy with, "Let's congratulate ourselves for eating without counting calories!" kind of made me want to scratch her eyes out.
Furthermore, Gilbert keeps meeting people with real problems--a man whose wife left him because of alcoholism, a teenage girl who is being forced to marry someone she doesn't like, a woman who is an outcast in society because she dared to divorce her husband who beat her--yet never seems to think to herself, "Hey, compared to these people I kind of seem like a childish crazy person who doesn't have any perspective or knows how to deal with a modern existential crisis and appreciate what she's got." Which is weird, because that's what I kept thinking the entire time.
I also kept expecting her to hop into bed with every single man who crossed her path, but she didn't. This was more confusing than anything else, because I thought that was her major problem to begin with? But fear not, eventually Javier Bardem saves her with his excellent Brazilian accent.
This movie isn't terrible, although it is definitely a hard-core chick flick. Travel stories are always fun. I don't want to make too much fun of Gilbert (too late) because you never know, someday I might have a complete breakdown and go haring off to some foreign country, myself. But I can't help feeling, because of the way the movie was framed, that none of this would have happened if the medicine man would have kept his mouth shut. That, combined with the fact that there's not much explanation for Gilbert's mood once she returns to New York, made the whole thing feel like a phase.
I didn't want to read the book before I saw the movie, and now I definitely don't. But I can see the appeal of such a story to women of a certain age and class whose lives are filled with ennui. No matter what motivated her to do it, Gilbert's travels are an adventure not just of place but of the heart, and no one can resist that.
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