Review: “Eat Pray Love” lacks… something.

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I made my boyfriend go with me to see “Eat Pray Love.” Bless him. I’d been looking forward to seeing this movie for weeks, ever since I saw that first colorful trailer with one of my favorite bands in the background (The Temper Trap). I was prepared to love this movie.

But, now that it’s been a few days since I saw it, I’m still not sure what I think about “Eat Pray Love.”

First, I should let you know that I have not read the book. I find that seeing movie adaptations of books you like almost always leads to a feeling of disappointment. Not that I can guarantee taking a liking to the book, of course — I think there’s probably a reason I’ve passed it up in bookstores for years. But, regardless, I went into viewing “Eat Pray Love” with an open mind, devoid of any expectations or readied comparisons to its narrative counterpart.

I feel like the book must be better. It has to be better.

I’m not saying the film was bad. I liked Julia Roberts as Liz Gilbert. The cinematography and scenery were visually appealing. Richard Jenkins shone in his role as Richard from Texas (his confession to Liz atop the ashram in India was perhaps the most moving moment in the whole film). Liz had some thought-provoking one-liners here and there that I told myself to remember, but of course forgot. Does that say something about this movie? Is it perhaps just a meandering, forgettable film? Maybe.

The movie seemed divided up evenly between “the background” of Liz’s life leading up to her divorce and her desire to escape her current situation, her time spent in Italy, her search for meaning in India, and her love affair in Indonesia. But just because the 2½-hour film was divided evenly does not mean it was balanced.

It seemed like perhaps the movie should just have been called “Love.” Sure, Liz was eating a lot in Italy and praying a lot in India (or at least talking about wanting to pray a lot in India). But the plot really just revolved around the concept of love.

In Italy, Liz fell in love with the food (her love scene with a plate of spaghetti was well done, I thought), and the people she was surrounded by. In India, Liz tried to fall in love with herself by finding God and forgiving herself for divorcing her husband. And in Indonesia, Liz fell in love with someone else — Felipe, played by a personable Javier Bardem. Sure, this is condensing events greatly, but love — of place, self, another — really is the main focus of “Eat Pray Love.”

But with such a focus on Liz and her struggles with love, other potentially interesting characters, ideas and plot points simply floated on by, becoming a collection of missed opportunities. I liked the story line of Tulsi (played by Rushita Singh) and her impending arranged marriage in the “pray” section of the film. The colorful Indian wedding ended with the bride and groom dancing awkwardly together while Liz thought back on her own wedding reception. And that’s it. We didn’t hear about Tulsi again. We didn’t see any revelation on Liz’s part about the freedom to choose your partner in life. I guess I felt like the whole subplot was rushed, stripping it of the passion and discovery it should have led to.

In fact, a lot of aspects of this film seemed rushed – which is a feat, considering “Eat Pray Love’s” 133-minute run time. I think writer/director Ryan Murphy simply tried to cram too much in, to the detriment of the story line.

I would have liked to see more of Ketut (played by Hadi Subiyanto), who was one of my favorite characters. I would have liked to get a better feeling of India. I would have liked to see the “love” story line expanded upon, since the movie really was more about love than anything else. How Liz went from meeting Felipe in a bar to bidding his son farewell with a big hug was lost on me. I felt like we skipped too many parts of the story.

I’m told that the “fight” between Liz and Felipe toward the end of the film was fabricated; that it didn’t exist in the book. Well, perhaps this is a good scene to have added, because I liked the argument Liz made when she declared, “I don’t have to love you to love myself.” Of course, she ends up loving him anyway without much further mention of loving herself.

Was this supposed to be her moment of epiphany? The moment when she transformed into a new Liz and found what she'd been searching for? I’m not sure. I felt like I was waiting for that “aha” moment of Liz’s throughout the whole film. But I never spotted it.

I guess I left the theater feeling rather disappointed. I had expected to be inspired. Had been sure that Liz’s journey of self-discovery would leave me with some sort of hopeful feeling, or at least some risidual passion for life and love and travel.

But I’m still not sure how I feel about “Eat Pray Love.” It’s a visually stimulating movie, but I felt rather unstimulated otherwise.

The movie may be all about love, but I didn’t fall in love with it.


Want to see the movie and decide for yourself what you thought? Buy it on Amazon!


  • You know, it seems like Eat, Pray, Love would work as a movie for the scenery alone (which was beautifully shot). But the book itself is too long, too deep and too nuanced to translate well into a movie. So much of the book is about introspection. You can’t watch a person think for two and a half hours.

    You should read the book. Her writing is one of the strengths of the story. My favorite, though, was the spoof “sequel” told from the husband’s point of view: Drink, Play, F*ck, which may become a film starring Steve Carell!
    Adventurous Kate recently posted..How To Couchsurf Without Couchsurfing

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Yeah, it seems like the book was simply too difficult to successfully translate into a film. Though, I still wouldn’t call it completely unsuccessful. There were, afterall, lots of things I liked about the movie.

      But yeah, I think I’ll probably have to read the book now. And check out that spoof sequel!

  • Andrew says:

    As a man who has read and enjoyed the book, I would second the sentiment to take some time to read it. As I remember there is only a chapter or so of her background + what comes up in the stories. What most impressed me in the book was her sense of humor and the progression through the stages. The lessons in each section build on themselves to the end.
    I’ll likely go to the film if the do an english showing. And I tend to enjoy movies no matter how “poor”, but the book is still an excellent thing. I read it in 4 evenings.
    Andrew recently posted..Beer at the Post Office

  • Stephanie says:

    I hate to break it to you, but the book is not much better. Aside from being poorly written (at times you can tell in the writing that the author has been too caught up in her experiences to share them with the reader and instead of deeper information and detail, you get sketchy summaries), it doesn’t explore India or her characters on any deeper of a level than the movie portrayed. I too thought something was missing and I can’t put it to words. I don’t think it explored enough of Julia Roberts character – in fact, I don’t think it took full advantage of Julia Roberts potential. There is a depth missing. There is self-explaination missing. And for a movie about travel, it seems itself exploration has gone awry.

    I was hoping a screenwriter would be able turn a bad book that had so much potential into a great film, picking up on the things the book could not but it didn’t. Instead it failed in the same areas I felt the book had.

  • DangerousBiz says:

    It’s interesting to see the differing of opinions in these comments. This is what I love about blogging. 🙂

    Thanks for the great dialogue, guys!

  • Katie says:

    I read the book a few months ago and while I enjoyed parts of it (there was actually one paragraph from her time at the ashram that I highlighed and quoted on Facebook, I could relate so well), I was left feeling disappointed. I felt the same way about the movie. While I know this was all a true story, I felt like the ending in both the book and movie was a little too perfect and contrived. You mention her line in the movie about not needing to love Felipe to love herself – I think I would’ve been more satisfied with the ending if she had ended up alone.

    I also felt the movie was rushed and choppy. I since have gone back and re-read (ok, skimmed) the book and it’s been interesting to see what was consolidated and what was left out altogether – and what was added to the movie that wasn’t in the book.

    I’d say the most “inspiring” thing I took away from the movie is the desire to rent an apartment abroad for a few months to experience living in a foreign city, learning the language and culture by meeting the locals.

    • DangerousBiz says:

      I agree — after her uttering that line, I would have been more impressed if she’d ended up heading back home by herself, all empowered and whatnot. But, this was a true story, and it was all about love in the end. And Felipe was so darn cute.

      I think I liked the “eat” portion of the movie best, simply because of your last point. That part of the film was all about just diving into a foreign environment and meeting new people — something I think a lot of people aspire to do, or at least dream about a whole lot.

  • Claire says:

    I agree with Katie above-the movie was rushed and choppy. There was simply way too much information in the book to create a movie from it. Maybe a mini-series? But it simply did not do justice to the book. I read the book a few years ago-after stubbornly refusing to when it first came out. Liz Gilbert was on Oprah, which meant she was the newest “it” person, and therefore I chose not to read it. I gave in after a few months though, and am glad I did. As the first commenter noted, the strength and depth of her writing really is the selling point of the book, and it is difficult to translate that through movie. I also read the follow-up to it entitled “Committed.” Anybody else read it? I won’t give anything away here, but suffice to say it is the typical sequel and not nearly as good as the first!
    Claire recently posted..My Love-Hate Relationship With Your Travel Blog

  • Suzy says:

    It’s funny because throughout all of my time in Italy, there is always an Eat Pray Love book no matter where I stay, one that someone brought to Italy and left behind. I picked up a used copy once in my apartment and started reading the Italy section. I found her cultural observations about Italy completely off, especially the parts on Sicily. I’m not sure how the movie portrayed Italy, but the book seemed to capture the trite Italy so many women go to the country for. I stopped reading at that point, but perhaps the movie will win me over.

    • DangerousBiz says:

      I think I actually liked the Italy portion of the movie best. But I think you just have to remember that the book and movie are based off one woman’s perceptions and experiences. One woman who was clearly traveling with some motives (to write a book being one of them), and so I feel like that already sets the whole situation up to feel less than authentic.

  • Andi says:

    Totally agree that the movie should have just been called Love. I really feel like they should have made 3 movies, everything was WAY rushed, especially India.
    Andi recently posted..Brasil- Day 2 Part 1

  • Jennifer says:

    What a relief to see some others weren’t impressed with this book either! I read the book for my book club a few years back and honestly none of us liked it. I pegged the author as crazy in the first few chapters and never could relate to her. I haven’t seen the movie but will probably watch it someday. I’m always a sucker for movies with good scenery!

    Did you ever end up reading the book Amanda?
    Jennifer recently posted..Chasing the Aurora Borealis in Tromsø, Norway

    • DangerousBiz says:

      I DID end up reading the book (there’s a short review of it over on my Reviews page if you want to check it out). I did like the book a bit better than the movie, but, like you, I just couldn’t relate to the narrator enough to really care about the story. That, and the India section of the book dragged on sooo painfully for me, that I almost didn’t even bother finishing it.

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