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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “‘Eat, Pray, Love’ satisfies more in movie form “

    With the memoir’s film adaptation premiering on Aug. 13, as well as the first day of school lingering just two weeks ahead, I decided it was as good of a time as any to try to get all my chakras aligned and see what all the buzz was about over Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2006 bestselling memoir, Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia and the 2010 movie it inspired.

    So, what is my personal buzz about this memoir of self-discovery and recovery? Well, in a way I feel self-conscious and a little bit guilty for admitting this, but I was not as impressed as I had hoped. Honestly, I’m on the fence about Gilbert’s memoir. Did I like it? Well, it is more complicated than a simple yes-or-no answer. I liked aspects of it — particularly those in the first and last sections. Did I hate it? No. In fact, I learned quite a bit. 

    For those of you who have not eaten, prayed and loved your way through the memoir, Gilbert’s narration chronicles her personal journey abroad, following a bitter divorce from her husband of eight years.

    Overwhelmed with depression and haunted by guilt for abandoning her marriage, before finding her new whirlwind romance a cause for even more suffering, Gilbert finally decides that she has had enough and sets out to rediscover herself. Leaving everything she owns behind in New York City, Gilbert divides her spiritual journey into three phases. First, Gilbert travels to Italy where she allows herself four months of complete pleasure — finally giving herself the time and permission to learn Italian, relax and, of course, eat … a lot.

    Next, she heads to her Guru’s ashram in India where she devotes six months to meditation and spiritual growth. Finally, Gilbert journeys to Bali where she spends her afternoons with medicine man who guides her on her quest to live life in a balance of both pleasure and prayer. 

    Sounds enlightening, right? Well, it was some of the time. Maybe I am too much a skeptic to truly appreciate the many spiritual epiphanies and realizations Gilbert describes in her book, but in many instances, I found myself raising a quizzical brow as she described herself writing a petition to God and envisioning Michael J. Fox signing his Hancock to the document. In that sense, I also found it extremely difficult to relate to — or even believe — many of Gilbert’s thoughts and experiences. While she wrote of attempting to find forgiveness and to control her thoughts at the Indian ashram, I was sadly struggling with keeping my mind from wandering from the words printed on the page. The Hallmark card-like advice and conversational tidbits sprinkled throughout also left me with doubts about her credibility. However, to Gilbert’s credit, I thoroughly enjoyed the spontaneous wit with which she relays her experiences, as well as the parallels she draws between herself and the history and lore surrounding her travel destinations.

    So what did I think of Hollywood’s take on Gilbert’s vision quest? Well, for one of the first times in my life, I liked the movie better than the book.

    First of all, the movie has one major thing going for it that the book doesn’t. Yes, it’s Julia Roberts. As ravishing as always and flashing several of those thousand-watt smiles,

    Roberts delivers a Liz Gilbert who is both relatable and likeable. This aspect is enhanced by both Roberts’ engaging persona on screen, as well as the fact that the film occurs further outside the depth that is Gilbert’s buzzing and exhausting mind. Thus, audiences are free to enjoy the incredible sights and splendors of each locale that Roberts’ character visits.

    Another strength of the film, which is somewhat absent in the book, are the many stories and emotions surrounding the supporting characters who wander in and out of Gilbert’s life. For instance, in her memoir, Gilbert’s depiction of her husband is vague and one-sided.

    However, the film creates a role for her husband (played by Billy Crudup), which garners much-needed empathy for both characters, and creates understanding previously lacking in the hearts of readers. In turn, rather than getting lost in Gilbert’s spiritual sputter while at the ashram, the film pulls at the emotional heart strings of its audience as Richard Jenkins brings to life the bold and straight-talking Richard from Texas.

    The only strike against the movie: “”Tinsel town”” makes a surprisingly evident entrance in Gilbert’s stint in Bali. I couldn’t help but laugh at the tweaks in the plot made in order to sell the movie. Even circumstances surrounding Gilbert’s Bali romance was Hollywood-ified.

    For instance, while Javier Bardem delivers a touching and soulful portrayal of Gilbert’s Brazilian lover, Felipe, he certainly is not the strong and self-assured entrepreneur featured in the novel. 

    Still, walking out of the theater, I was left with a surprising feeling of satisfaction … as well as an unbelievably strong craving for pasta. 

    What the Movie has Going:

    Hello?! Julia Roberts, James Franco and Javier Bardem — need I say more?

    The scenery, the scenery, the scenery! After seeing the film you will want to travel.

    The Italian food will make your stomach growl.

    While Gilbert’s time in Bali isn’t exactly portrayed as it was written, the romance is certainly swoon-worthy.

    You can relish in the experience of Gilbert’s journey without getting too caught up in the side-stories and the many internal debates.

          

    Why you still Should Read the Book:

    Since you become immersed into Gilbert’s thoughts, you get a better sense about why she embarks on her year-long journey.

    In that same sense, you hear the nitty-gritty — the raw emotion behind her struggle of self-forgiveness and the ability to believe in love again.

    You get a better sense of her spiritual growth while she travels to each locale and discovers new aspects of life and herself.

    Gilbert relays interesting information about her destinations.

    Finally, and this goes for every book-turned-movie: You just get more of the story — more of the who, what, when and why.

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