I realize I’m way late in the game. Eat Pray Love has been out for over two weeks and reviewed ad-nauseum. I haven’t read the reviews though. I wanted to see it for myself. I suspected I might dislike it, but based on my own experience “healing and growing” post divorce, I assumed that at the very least it would make me emotional, as it had for some of my girlfriends. I ended up hating it. It actually made me angry.
Reading the book was by far a more relatable and moving experience. Elizabeth Gilbert chose the memoir as the right vehicle to convey her personal journey – words on a page. Her self-deprecating humor, her candor – her voice – allowed me to connect with her story. But on screen? The power of her voice is lost, there is no humor, and very little poignancy. It was impossible for me to feel sorry for her character. Five minutes into the movie, after we see her at an upscale party in Manhattan with her handsome (if not, goofy) husband, she breaks down in crying jags asking God for help. “Save me from all this,” she moans. From what, exactly?
I don’t mean to sound glib. I understand the pain of divorce; the fear and regrets that you’ve mistakenly pulled the rip cord on your life, and hurt people you love. This happened to Liz Gilbert. And in the book, it works. But come on Hollywood, this is a movie! I almost wished they made up some stakes for Liz, for drama’s sake. Couldn’t her husband have been abusive, or lost all of their money? Couldn’t he have cheated? Couldn’t she? Although I suspect that in the real story (which is not revealed even in the book), she does. My theory is that she leaves him for David. This missing, yet vital piece of information – which would help to explain the depth of Liz’s grief – bugged me when I read the book too, but the issue is more prominent on screen. Where, exactly, is all this grief really coming from? You don’t have kids. You can support yourself. Your husband gave you the divorce pretty quickly. So then, what is it? Are we supposed to believe that it’s really not all that deep – she’s simply immature and on a self-indulgent quest to snap out of it? Again, I know that in real life, divorce is brutal and these things are nuanced. We women can torture ourselves plenty; we don’t necessarily need an external force’s help. But, for the sake of the movie, we need to relate to the main character. If we can’t connect with our protagonist, in the span of a movie moment, then what exactly is the point?
Also, I know this is a shocking revelation, but Julia looks very pretty. She is desirable, funny, and makes friends wherever she goes. This conveys the message that divorce is fun! Especially if you’re hot. (If you’re not, don’t you dare try it). If you’re as cute (and witty) as Julia, tall and lithe no matter how much pizza you pig out on in Napoli, I say, sign me up! I wish I knew about the Eat Pray Love divorce cruise before my husband and I split. It would have been so much more appealing than being forced to stay put, work during the day while crying myself to sleep at night, after getting guilt inducing phone calls from my sobbing ex.
I found it curious that the movie totally neglected to mention that she’s writing a book at all, which in my opinion was a lost opportunity. Nor is it said that Liz’s travels were pre-paid for by Penguin Books. Fancy negligee in a Rome storefront? Easy. A jaunt to a luxurious abode in Bali? No prob. Even when you get driven off the road upon arrival, the driver is gorgeous, and promptly falls in love with you too. I hear there are now Eat Pray Love tours in Bali. I wonder if you have to show your divorce papers in order to apply.
The real question is, why does its badness piss me off? What’s thirteen bucks and two and a half hours? At least I had popcorn. I’ve looked inward and here is my conclusion. It’s not the obvious: that I’m jealous or bitter of Liz’s success, or that I feel that she’s romanticized divorce and marketed it for public consumption. I believe she wrote the book from the heart, and probably, wisely, left out a few things she wasn’t comfortable confronting at the time.
It’s the Hollywood machine that angers me. I used to be a part of its complicated inner workings. It chewed me up, and I fled, before it had the chance to spit me out. Since then, I watch movies from a different perspective. I choose to escape, to be moved – rather than bored – to tears. But mostly, I hope to watch man triumph over adversity. Just give me a little bit of that – even a smidge – and I’m good.