For the last few months, I have been torn as to whether or not I wanted to read Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love, before watching the movie adaptation. A few of my friends who've read the book dote on the incredible journey Liz takes to find herself. Others say it's filled with too much whining and that she's selfish. As it goes, I didn't read the book before watching the movie. Now I can't decide if I want to.
Eat Pray Love follows Gilbert's (Julia Roberts) own yearlong journey to find herself after a painful divorce, which she initiated. Gilbert takes off to Italy for three months to have a relationship with food, to India to find her spiritual center, and to Bali to find a balance and study with a medicine man she met a year earlier.
Roberts is, of course, as wonderful as ever, even though it doesn't seem like she's right for the role. The scenery is beautiful and is reason enough to see the film. What's missing is the reasoning behind why her marriage to Stephen (Billy Crudup) and her post-divorce relationship with David Piccolo, played by James Franco, crumbled. As a stand alone, the film is beautifully done and causes the viewers to reflect on their own lives. That being said, it is based on a memoir, and those who've read the book may or may not be bothered by what's been left on the cutting room floor.
The reason that Eat Pray Love rose to the top of the best sellers list, and why it'll light up the box office is simple: life is hard and everyone, at some point in their lives, wants to escape their own decisions. For most people, it would be a dream come true to take off for a year and travel the world. Eat Pray Love is a perfect example of escapism. We escape real life in the storytelling of others through books, movies and television. By reading about Liz's experience we are taken out of the office, away from the kids, and on a journey we most likely will never get to experience for ourselves.
Did I find Gilbert to be selfish and whiny? Not so much, at least in the movie. The problem some people may have with the story is the "me, me me," aspect, but it's based on a memoir of someone's spiritual journey, so what do you expect? What I found irking was when I learned that Gilbert funded the trip with an advance for the book she planned to write. The story seems cheapened in a way, but that's not the movie's fault.