Saturday, July 2, 2011

Film Connect: Eat Pray Love

Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love.

I found the book Eat, Pray, Love to be so rich that I ventured to read it twice. The movie? Not so much.

I was attracted to Elizabeth Gilbert's writing because it's introspective, raw, and delightfully funny. She reveals things about herself as she discovers them—the sweet, the neat, and the weird. It's what inspired thousands of us women to dream of similar voyages in which we too could finally figure out why the heck it is we do what we do.

The movie, on the other hand, runs its fingers along the surface. We don't really get inside Liz's head, which is where all the action is happening. There's some narration, but it's sparse, and really doesn't give the viewer who hadn't read the book any depth about the real Liz's inner workings as she experienced herself in Italy, India, and Indonesia.

To give the producers the benefit of the doubt, it's difficult to recreate a book like Eat, Pray, Love as a film, particularly in the romantic comedy genre they chose. The book is practically a 300-page journal. In order to sink your teeth into Liz's thoughts, feelings, and epiphanies, the movie would almost have to be a documentary. A lengthy one at that.

And so, as is often the case in Hollywood, they kept it light. Light as a ping pong ball in the ocean. And they cast Julia Roberts, who didn't convince me she was anyone other than Julia Roberts eating pizza, struggling to meditate, and smooching a sexy Brazilian. From the video I've seen of the real Liz Gilbert, and after having read two of her books, I don't see a whole lot of Gilbert in Roberts' performance. Gilbert is intellectual and a little clumsy, emotional and inquisitive. Julia Roberts in the role feels a little too, well, cool. (Think popular cheerleader vs. editor of the school paper.)  Yet, I enjoyed much of the other casting—Felipe (oh Felipe!), Richard from Texas, Wayman, Ketut, Luca Spaghetti.

I think Eat, Pray, Love the movie is best enjoyed sans the book. I tried to let the film objectively stand on its own, and failed. Couldn't stop comparing the two.  So watch the movie first. That way, there's a chance you'll be satisfied with both.