REVIEW: EAT PRAY LOVE (2010)
Based on the book by Elizabeth Gilbert
Written for the screen by Ryan Murphy and Jennifer Salt
Director: Ryan Murphy
Starring: Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem, Billy Crudup, Richard Jenkins, James Franco, Viola Davis
Last night I had the pleasure of attending the World Premiere of EAT PRAY LOVE at the Ziegfeld Theatre in Manhattan. I go to a lot of these premieres, but this one I was particularly excited about. First of all, Julia Roberts has been one of my favorite actresses my entire life. She was the reason I became interested in this story. I haven’t read the book the film is based on, but I love the idea of going on a trip around the world on a path to discovery.
Who wouldn’t? Apparently, a lot of people.
There has been a bit of a backlash about this book. If you don’t know, it’s a true story about a woman named Elizabeth Gilbert who has a seemingly perfect life: good friends, successful career as a writer, great husband, beautiful home, disposable income. But she’s still unhappy. Insanely unhappy, in fact. Crying on the floor of her bathroom, unhappy. She decides to spend a year away from her home in New York in an effort to change her life and find herself - four months in Italy, followed by India, then Bali.
I’ve heard many people say they just can’t stomach a story about a rich white lady “complaining” about her life and trying to find herself by going on a trip around the world.
I can’t even describe how strongly I disagree with that way of thinking. I would absolutely love to be rich, But I do not for one second harbor any illusions that if I was it would make me truly happy. Just because someone is rich and successful does not mean they are not allowed to have problems. It certainly doesn’t excuse them from experiencing some kind of depression. Money can buy a lot of temporary glee, but it can’t buy true happiness, clarity, peace, self acceptance and understanding, balance, or love.
I couldn’t wait to go on this journey. I am fascinated by and obsessed with travel - I’ve never even been out of the country, but I long to. They definitely did a good job of making me feel like I was, in fact, with her on this trip as well. Maybe i’m just a sap but I found that to be incredibly touching. It’s one of those films that reminds you that even through the chaos and insanity of life, the only thing that really matters is being with the ones you love. Connecting with people.
The film begins with Liz on a trip to Bali for a piece that she is writing. She meets a medicine man who tells her she will live long, have many friends, have two marriages - one short, one long, and that she will lose all her money and then get all of it back. He also says she will come back to Bali and he will teach her everything he knows. This is one of those true stories that sounds too good to actually be real, where every person she meets comes into her life at the exact right time and teaches her the exact thing she needs to learn.
She returns home and within six months, falls into a pit of depression. I have to address Julia’s performance here. She nailed this role. She was the exact right choice. I mention this here because at the beginning of the film, Liz decides to pray for the first time. It’s not that she didn’t believe in God before, she just wasn’t that spiritual of a person it seemed. But she is so lost in desperation that she kneels onto her bathroom floor and begs God for help. The way Julia played this scene was brilliant. It was so beautifully heartbreaking, so real, so emotional, so relatable. From here, she decides her life needs to change.
“This is my life, and i’m going to go for it.”
The first stop on her trip is EAT - Italy. There is a great quote about how she has no interest in being obese, but she refuses to count every calorie so that the next day, “I know how much self-loathing to take into the shower with me.” One of the things she learns here is “Il bel far niente” which is the beauty of doing nothing. The Italians tell her how ridiculous it is that Americans feel bad for indulging in things that give them pleasure. We feel like we have to earn the right to relax. If we spend the day in bed lazing about, we feel guilty the next day. Italians do not think this way. They feel they deserve to sit back, relax, to savor and enjoy their lives. Ever hear the phrase “how could something that feels so good be wrong?” Well, according to Italians, it’s not wrong.
The second stop is PRAY - India. This was by far my favorite section of the movie and that is mostly because of the incredible person she meets here, Richard from Texas, played TO PERFECTION by Richard Jenkins. I was startled by his performance. I am in awe of his performance. Richard is very up front, direct, and honest with Liz, who’s meditation practices are so far not coming up very successful. At first he annoys her, but as they take the chance to get to know each other, she ends up learning a lot from him and loving him for it. It was absolutely beautiful and completely inspiring, and less about prayer than it was about self discovery and acceptance. Finding out the person that you are, clearing out your mind, letting GO of the negativity and chaos, and letting the universe in.
“The resting place of the mind is the heart. The only thing the mind hears all day is clanging bells and noise and argument, and all it wants is quietude. The only place the mind will ever find peace is inside the silence of the heart. That’s where you need to go.”
The third stop is LOVE - Bali. The best thing to come out of this section is a fantastic line that I won’t spoil exactly for you, but it’s about not being defined by any person that you love. That you don’t have to be in a relationship to be complete or to love yourself. It’s a fantastic message, especially in a world where if someone is past a certain age and hasn’t been married, people whisper about why that could possibly be behind their back. Many times during Liz’s adventure, people are shocked by the fact that she is divorced and currently single. One of the biggest problems people have about this story is that she then falls madly in love with a man who nearly runs her over in Bali. She goes from saying that the last thing she wants to do is fall in love, to meeting the love of her life. But she had to go through everything that she went through before fully being happy with this man. She’s very hesitant to let herself fall for another person - she’s terrified, in fact. But when the right person comes along at the right time, it defies everything else. I’m talking, of course, about Felipe, played by Javier Bardem. He was incredible in this role as well, particularly during the scene with his son, which is one of the most moving scenes I have EVER seen in a movie. I was completely floored by the beauty of it.
She of course spends a huge amount of time with Ketut, the medicine man, and he was my favorite part about the film besides India. I can’t describe how badly I want to go there and learn something from someone like him. I’ve been dealing with a lot of inner turmoil and the desire I feel to - as the tagline to this film says - Let myself go.
“You were given life; it is your duty (and also your entitlement as a human being) to find something beautiful within life, no matter how slight.”