This is the first thing I’ve managed to complete for the Page to Screen Challenge! I’m annoyed at myself for not doing better, as I love movies and this was probably the challenge I was most excited about, but in my defence I have had a lot on, and not time to re-read Lord of the Rings and watch the films like I wanted to! This is my (not quite so epic) substitute.
So a while back, I read the book of Eat, Pray, Love, and really enjoyed it. It seems to be one of those books which polarises – while some people love it, others absolutely despise it as narcissistic self- involvement, and while I can see where they’re coming from, I fall into the other, loving it as fantastic escapism, in an ‘I wish I could do this’ kind of way. My review of the book can be found here, and for those who are unaware, the basic plotline is as follows:
Elisabeth Gilbert (Julia Roberts) is unhappily married. After coming to the conclusion that she wants out- of both her marriage and the life that she thought she wanted- she goes travelling in order to save her mental health, and rediscover herself. Spending time in Italy (eat), India (pray), and Indonesia (love), the film follows her through three beautiful locations and a multitude of new friends in her quest to be happy with herself.
What I Thought: I did enjoy the film, despite initially thinking I might not. When reading the book, I couldn’t imagine Julia Roberts as Liz, and this held true for the first 20 minutes or so of the film. In all honesty, I never got totally comfortable with her but I don’t think that was her fault. For me, Julia Roberts will always be as she was in Pretty Woman; big-eyed, naive, so in the right place at the right time. For me, Elisabeth came across as being harder – more experienced, funnier, and more worldly. Through the whole ‘Italy’ part of the film, I was uncomfortable with Roberts in the role, but that changed in India, probably with the arrival of ‘Richard from Texas’ (played by Richard Jenkins). Whether it was because he played the character so exactly how I imagined him, or because he gave Roberts somebody constant to play off of, I suddenly started to get immersed. I even had tears in my eyes when he talks about his alcoholism and the loss of his family.
The one thing I missed from the India part of the trip was how intensely spiritual it is for Gilbert in the book. I can understand why they would want to downplay that aspect of it in order to Hollywood it up, but as I said in my review of the book, the spiritual scenes made me think about my own feelings about religion which I needed to do at the time, so I missed that. Other than the lack of spirituality, though, it was a fairly accurate adaptation. Most of the major events took place in surprisingly accurate form, and the overall mood of the film was consistent with the way the book made me feel. Although I know that’s kind of a crappy, overly sentimentalised way of ‘reviewing’, for me, Eat, Pray, Love (both book and film) was all about the feelings it inspired: happiness, inspiration, calmness, and envy....
I’m not afraid to embrace the fact that I’m incredibly jealous of the fact that Gilbert was able to just take off around the world, not least of the fact that she was able to do so partly through getting a book of her experiences commissioned. This is one of the major dreams of my life. Having not travelled very much, and wanting to travel very much more, and to write about it, the envy this film created knows no bounds. I think that a major reason to dislike Eat, Pray, Love is inability to embrace jealousy and move past it to enjoyment of the book. Of course, there are probably many people who disliked the book for other reasons, and that’s totally valid. Personally, I see how the film could have been annoying. I also didn’t like how much of the female friendships were cut out, especially Liz and Wayan’s friendship, which I didn’t feel got as much space in the film as it deserved – it seemed, fairly unsurprisingly, to lose out to the love story.
I do like to think of myself as somewhat of a feminist, and I’m definitely prone to ranting, so I have to admit that I did feel a little bit let down by the whole ‘meet a guy, fall in love, rearrange your life for him’ thing, which probably makes me the world’s biggest hypocrite because that’s pretty much exactly what happened to me, but still! I really liked the way that Gilbert was discovering herself and learning to be happy alone, and then (in my eyes) she went and ruined it all! That said, it was a lovely ending, and I did really like Javier Bardem as Felipe, it just lacked the strength of other parts of the story.
All in all, I much preferred the book. I did enjoy watching the film though, and I thought that most of the characters were very well cast. I wouldn’t rush out and buy it or anything, but if I stumbled across it on TV, I’d probably happily sit through it again.