A World Traveler's View of Eat Pray Love
Words by David Jedeikin
Girly movies oozing with romance and starring Julia Roberts are catnip for us gays. Add in fantastic overseas locations, a bit of heartbreak, and lots of pasta and gelato, and you’ve got the perfect night out for you and your gal pals.
At least that’s the promise of Eat Pray Love, the new Ryan Murphy film (Glee, Nip/Tuck, Running With Scissors) based on the bestselling memoir by author Elizabeth Gilbert. As a onetime round-the-world adventurer with a book of my own on the subject, I was especially curious to see how Gilbert’s sprawling tale fares on the big screen.
It begins smartly enough, with Gilbert (Roberts) biking around the rice paddies of Bali, Indonesia, obsessing about her love life to a toothless medicine man (“looks a bit like Yoda”). He hands her a prophecy: her stillborn marriage will end. She’ll lose all her dough. But she’ll come back, literally and figuratively, from it all.
Sure enough, her marriage flames out in a New York divorce attorney’s office, and an affair she has with a twenty-eight year-old actor (James Franco) makes matters worse – like we didn’t see that coming a mile away. All this prompts Gilbert to ditch the American Dream – for a whole year, in fact – and head out on a globe-girdling trek to Italy, to an ashram in India, then back to Bali to reunite with Yoda medicine man.
We’re then treated to a glorious feast of locations and more than a few clichés: in Italy, an old Citroen rumbling over cobbly streets, a cranky landlady, a lesson in talking with one’s hands. The bits in India feel more authentic – Gilbert coming to terms with her prior “perfect wife obsession” is mirrored effectively by an ashram mate’s arranged marriage; a final scene with an elephant is also nicely done.
Ultimately, though, the movie feels hurried and slow at the same time: her interactions with Richard, the recovering alcoholic Texan, don’t answer the questions they did in the book. Later, Gilbert’s work to aid a single-mom/healer in Bali is superficially addressed via e-mail. Her quest to figure herself out is contingent on letting herself go… into the arms of a Brazilian businessman. I can vouch for the tonic of Brazilian romance (it happened on my world journey, too) but here it wraps things up a bit too easily. The book’s irrepressible spiritualism made non-religious types like me yawn, but at least it glued the story together. With it toned down, the movie feels thin – and even a more mature (and unselfconsciously voluptuous) Julia Roberts isn’t quite enough to hold it together.
If nothing else, though, it’s a pleasant night out with your feminine side… and if it persuades at least some of you to pack it all in and attraversiamo – Italian for “cross over,” Gilbert’s mantra in both the book and the film – so much the better. Ashram or no, I can vouch for travel’s power to help us better understand ourselves.
Photos: © 2010 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
A native of Montreal, Canada, author David Jedeikin came to America in search of fame and fortune, but ended up finding greater fulfillment as a software engineer. Wander the Rainbow is his chronicle of a unique round-the-world trip. A nomad even before this journey, Jedeikin has lived in Toronto, Los Angeles, Lansing, Michigan, Chicago, and Boston. For the moment, he’s laid down roots in San Francisco… but the lure of further travel is never far from his mind.