Eat Pray Love: Or, How Julia Roberts Spent Her Summer Vacation

So I know I’m the first girl-blogger on Shooting the Script, and I wish that I were reviewing something like Iron Rage 4: Return of the Testosterone King, but I’m here to get straight stereotypical. I just saw Eat Pray Love. Consider yourself warned.

A little background: EPL was originally a book. A true, inspiring tale of self-discovery that took the world by storm. And by “the world,” of course, I mean women. This book was insanely popular. It was on the New York Times bestseller list for 155 weeks. That’s three years. So a lot of women (and Adam) are going to go into the theater with some preconceived “notions” about what a “nonfiction” story should be, just because they heard the story from the author directly. And they will be disappointed.

The premise for both works is that Elizabeth Gilbert, a moderately successful writer, grows apart from her husband. They divorce and she immediately plunges into an even more soul-sucking relationship. Devastated and empty, Liz resolves to spend one year (on her publisher’s dime) healing herself: eating in Italy, praying at an ashram in India, and learning to love in Bali.

The book. You're much better off here.

Needless to say, women ate this up faster than fat-free Haagen-Dazs—myself included. I loved the book. It was the kind of book that made you want to quit your job, travel the world, and find yourself. Whatever “you” you currently were was the wrong you, because you hadn’t been to an ashram or talked to a medicine man. And that it’s a true story sends us women into convulsions of ecstasy. “I could do this!” we gasp. “What has my husband ever given me besides a loving, stable home? I need a gorgeous Brazilian who gets me.”

As evidenced by the advanced screening I went to Tuesday night, women will flock to this movie like Snooki to pickles. Seriously, there was so much estrogen in the theater I’m surprised we didn’t all come out on the same menstrual cycle. But even with 300 women sighing in unison, this movie left me flat.

It isn’t the acting that does this movie in. Julia Roberts plays Elizabeth Gilbert reasonably well, crying on cue and having versatile hair. James Franco, who plays her post-divorce boyfriend David, does what he always does: looks both greasy and sucked dry at the same time.  Standouts include Javier Bardem as Felipe, a swarthy Brazilian (God, he was good-looking) and the excellent Viola Davis as Liz’s agent. Add a quirky, lovable supporting cast, and you should have box-office gold, right?

Seriously, WTF? This part is actually in the movie.

Right! Just kidding. The story ruined this movie—or more unfortunately, the lack thereof. Director Ryan Murphy, current do-no-wrong creator of Glee, manages to Botox the story. It’s like he doesn’t want the audience to be unhappy, even for a moment, so he eliminates all the interesting wrinkles.  Liz’s horrible divorce and subsequent relationship with David were terrible, yes, but without them, we don’t know what the big deal is. Why does she need to travel the world? All she does is go to well-lit dinner parties and play in Central Park. This is the big, needling flaw in the movie. In the book, Liz’s midnight communion with God left me wide-eyed, inspired, and signing up for yoga classes. In the movie, the only reference to spirituality is a joke about insect bites.  Without any depth, Elizabeth Gilbert’s spiritual and emotional journey becomes just a vacation.

Eat Pray Love is just the latest in “what have they done to the story?” movies. The books are always better—Lovely Bones, Into the Wild . . . honest to God, Congo was a good book, and the movie was ridiculous.

I betcha one smells like marinara and one like nag champa

And like another enormously popular book with a subpar movie, Eat Pray Love has become a lifestyle. Like The Da Vinci Code, there are Eat Pray Love trips to the same places the characters travel. You can buy EPL furniture, fashion, candles, and fragrances.  But EPL as a movie fails even harder than The Da Vinci Code because its premise was actually believable. There weren’t any unbreakable codes or albinos or geriatric villains. All we wanted was to see a story of a woman who is broken and then healed. You know, what really happened.

And another thing: this movie wasn’t based on a comic that no one read (The Last Airbender) or a foreign film Americans never heard of (Dinner for Schmucks). This was based on a memoir of someone who is still living. Didn’t anyone talk to the author at all? Or anyone who read the book? None of them would have told you that what women wanted was a story of a selfish woman who goes on vacation. The movie was just so flat—no spiritual highs, no devastating lows. If I wanted to watch something this smooth, I’d stare at Nicole Kidman’s forehead.

Maybe you should kill two birds and just project the movie on her forehead

Grade: C-

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12 responses to “Eat Pray Love: Or, How Julia Roberts Spent Her Summer Vacation

  1. Menstrual jokes are always funny.

    Lovely Bones was pretty bad, but Into the Wild is just as awesome as the book…And Congo, well Congo had a great cast.

    • Into the Wild was good, but the book explained so much about his death–and whether he even knew what happened to him or not. As a reader, I was pretty frustrated that the director just assumed he knew that he was dying and why, because the doubt made him more of a person, not just some college kid who was born to do this.

      But, Emile Hirsch is way cuter than the guy I imagined while reading, so there’s that.

      • And the menstrual joke was to help counteract every joke Nate’s ever made. I’ve got a lot more to do before balance is restored.

  2. Seriously, what is up with Nicole Kidman’s forehead????
    So, since I hate this book (and am apparently the only woman in the world who does), maybe that means I’ll like the movie.
    Excellent review, Katie.

    • Thanks! I’d question your literary taste, but since you recommended The Help, you’ve got a free pass on this one. When that movie comes out, you and I will bitch together.

  3. The Last Airbender “wasn’t based on a comic that no one read” but a cartoon that millions watched. The creators are also still alive and were not involved either. So while your argument is a tad flawed it is still valid.

    Great review otherwise. Looking forward to your views on Iron Rage 4: Return of the Testosterone King.

  4. I’m hoping they come out with pasta that has the word “eat” on it all pretty, so I can pay seven dollars for semolina and keep the box.

  5. The balance will never be restored…never! He won’t let that happen.

  6. This is exactly what I suspected. When I found out they were making a movie out of this book, I was so bummed. When I found out Julia Roberts was going to play Elizabeth Gilbert, I wanted to puke. This totally sucks because I really liked the book. And you’re right, it was the highs and the lows that made the book so good. And the interal dialogue. And that it wasn’t attached to over 500 or so retail product spin offs. And that it had nothing to do with Julia Roberts. Damn. Why o why did Gilbert sell the rights? Oh fuck it, I probably would have to…but nevertheless it’s really, really disappointing. Great review though!

    • Thanks, Lisa! Yeah, I can’t figure out how buying an EPL Balinese coffee table brings you closer to spiritual perfection, but I’m pretty sure people are succumbing. Can’t wait for The Expendables pace makers!

  7. Dear Katie,
    I watched “Eat, pray, love” yesterday evening, and -I’m sorry- I felt amazed and inspired. I cant’t compare to the book since I haven’t read it yet; though, perhaps that’s the reason why it’s possible for me to being moved by all the ingredients -script, photography, music, emotional expressions-, and to being able to actually relate to the main character of the movie, to her feelings and thoughts and to what she’s been going trough.
    By the way, I’m Italian, and being emotional is our trademark 😉
    Cheers, Gaia

    • Thanks, Gaia. I think you did things in the right order. Now that you’ve got the plot down, you can read the book and fill in the gaps the movie left out. Trust me, if you want emotion, Elizabeth’s your girl.

      Thanks for finding us!

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