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.
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?
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.
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.