Movie Review: Eat Pray Love
A Movie Miss
One of the reasons that I wanted to watch the movie, Eat Pray Love, was to see how on earth director Ryan Murphy could adapt the very cerebral novel written by Elizabeth Gilbert and capture its depth on the big screen. Today, I discovered that he didn’t even try. Instead, he just glazed over the mystical aspect of the book and gave viewers the merest taste of an otherwise very meaty story.
The focus of the book, Eat Pray Love, is the spiritual growth of its author. As readers, we see her angst when she admits to herself that she no longer wants to be married—not because she no longer loves her husband, but because she is miserable, even clinically depressed, trying to fit herself into the mold of “wife” and gearing up to do the same as “mother” because her husband so badly wants a child. The movie doesn’t even touch on that. What we see is a woman who is dissatisfied with her husband’s inability to settle into a career. His telling her that he wants to go back to school becomes her breaking point. The spiritual alignment that occurrs in order for her to finally get the divorce one and one half years later is completely omitted.
Even in the book, Gilbert’s immersion into the food and language culture of Italy is a bit hard to emotionally connect to, so it was not surprising that Mr. Murphy had to manipulate the facts of that time in her life to make it more meaningful. The visual effect of seeing the beautiful foods made up for the license he took, but it did not make up for his omitting the difficulty she has fighting depression and her ill-advised decision to go off her meds cold turkey. Thus, her time in Italy was not just the food-fest presented in the movie.
The weakest area of the movie for me is the character’s time in the ashram in India. Ms. Gilbert did an excellent job of describing her effort to find God, the difficulty she experienced meditating, connecting to the long, difficult Sanskrit chant, the many friendships she made and her ultimate understanding that the God she sought was inside her and had accepted her as good enough all along. Though we see scenes that suggest these events, I suppose the depth was too cerebral to capture cinematically.
My beef with the Bali portion of the movie is that it focuses way too much on the love story between Liz and Filipe. She went to Bali to seek balance, and in doing so, found love. Anyone who gets the story only through the movie will misperceive how important Bali was to her final understanding of herself and people in general. Her relationship with Kutut and Wayan went far deeper than it was portrayed on the movie.
As much as I love Julia Roberts as an actress, I did not enjoy her portrayal of the spiritual seeker whose yearlong quest makes her a better person with a new understanding of herself and her relationship with God. Roberts’ performance seemed one dimensional; viewers do not really see her struggle or her growth. I did, however, enjoy Hadi Subiyanto’s mildy humorous portrayal of Ketut Liyer, Liz’s Balinese medicine man and the female who played Ketut’s sister in law (a role that was never defined in the movie). Javier Bardem who plays Felipe, the man to whom Liz finally opens her heart, gets an honorable mention, not because he did not shine in his portrayal of the sensitive Brazilian, but because there did not seem much chemistry between the two lovers.
The Author's View
In Ms. Gilbert’s interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show, she confessed that she had not understood the popularity of her book until she saw the movie. I feel the exact opposite. Many people spend their lives seeking something bigger than themselves, and they often find that greatness through the relationships they build that introduce them to selfless service to others. The book speaks to that issue much louder than the movie does. So, though Ms. Gilbert sees Liz’s character as “everyman” in the movie, I see her much more authentically that way in the book. So, on a scale of 1 to 5, I would give the movie Eat Pray Love a 2.