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!