While Eat Pray Love has had mixed reviews from the critics I think it all depends on what you are looking for in the movie to what you will get out of it. This is without a doubt a feast for the eyes. Whether it is the beautiful scenery or the beautiful men that you choose to gaze upon. The main problem I think many people have with this movie is that they are looking for too much in it, they are looking for the answer to happiness, or enlightenment – too much for any film to bear!
Elizabeth Gilbert’s evocative and inspiring novel got a lot of the same criticisms from people who felt she was trying to provide answers but what she was telling was far more powerful. Like many women today she had lost who she was and went on a journey to find herself. Yes she had the cushion of knowing that she had organised with her publisher to write a book about it but it is her journey and nothing more. If a person thinks they will find happiness by following the same path – in a bowl of pasta in Italy, spiritual enlightenment in India and love in Bali then they will be sadly disappointed. I think that Liz is simply saying that sometimes you have to be brave enough to step out of your comfort zone to discover a little more about yourself and your needs and wants.
Similarly with the movie some people may go in with hopes of being enlightened but that is not what this movie is about. It is more about one woman’s adventure to find herself. Don’t get me wrong, at the end of the movie you will want to travel to Rome, India and Bali but this is because they are exceptionally beautiful places that have wonderful cultures worth exploring.
Rome’s rich culture and amazing food are a treat for anyone whether they are looking for themselves or not. Watching the fashionable Roman’s move around the city doing their day to day activities with a sense of calm that you don’t experience in many countries in inspiring. Their love of family, fashion, food and their city shows some of what is lost in big cities like London and New York. There is still a sense of community or care and of enjoying the simple things in life – something we can all benefit in being reminded of.
While Liz travelled to India to explore religion and spiritualism, there is a way of getting that closer to home. Pakistani born author Nadeem Aslam said recently at a Granta talk “I’m not anti-religious, just against corrupt organised or manipulated religion. At least religion puts something other than sex and money and the centre of human discourse. It puts love at the centre.” Many people are beginning to feel the lack of depth in modern society and are looking to find something more, some empathetic core beliefs and others who share these. Whether it is exploring Buddhism, Hinduism or doing an Alpha course, there is nothing wrong with looking for a community with which to share a more caring core value than just ‘it’s all about me!’.
Bali has been a tropical mecca for years and it is lovely that through Liz’s book, many more people are discovering the beauty of the people and the place. The movie shows the jungle flora, the rice paddies and local people in wonderful technicolour that makes you long to be cycling around the villages and staying in an open walled villa with views to the sea too. Having been there many a time I would encourage women to travel to this southern oasis but I ask one thing. Please do not try to find Wayan and leave Ketut in peace. By all accounts Ubud is now overrun with single women in their 30s and 40s looking for Ketut to tell them their future, Wayan to heal them and a handsome Brazilian to storm into their lives. These were people who touched Liz, became her friends, and in doing so helped her discover what she wanted – that is how they helped her, not by a two minute ‘magical’ visit.
Julia Roberts puts in a fantastic performance as Liz showing the emotional turmoil of a woman who looks like she has everything but is not happy. And she is ably complemented by Javier Bardem, who plays her Brazilian lover, Billy Crudup, who plays her ex-husband and James Franco who plays the actor boyfriend who introduces her to Hinduism as the three influential men in her life. The emotions in both the script and by the actors are subtle and complicated rather than in-your-face and angst-ridden and that is part of its charm.
So go out and see the movie and then open your life to new experiences and new people and see where your life leads. It may well lead to Rome, India or Bali but be open enough to see that it may lead to a man at your local pub too! THAT is the true beauty of this movie.