Life in the Fast Lane

A TRIATHLETE'S MULTISPORT ADVENTURES, TRAVELS, RANDOM MUSINGS, AND CHRONICLES OF HER OTHERWISE ORDINARY LIFE

Eat Pray Self-Indulge

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Ever since the mid-90's, I was a Julia Roberts fan. In fact, some of my favorite flicks from my high school days had Julia Roberts in it: My Best Friend's Wedding, Notting Hill, and Runaway Bride, to name a few. I've always loved how she managed to make her characters seem real and down to earth, and how she was always a breath of fresh air every time she appeared onscreen. Her signature laugh, her humanness and candor are really what make her America's (and everybody else's) Sweetheart.


Fast forward to a month ago. My art director partner had a copy of the much sought after Eat Pray Love and told me to read it. Since I generally read all the books before watching their movie counterparts, I borrowed hers. I enjoyed reading about Liz Gilbert's struggles, insights, experiences and quirks. I wished that I had the same financial status so that I, too, could go around the world, expose myself and in turn, learn about myself. I gained 10 lbs. through Liz Gilbert as she fed her soul with the tomato and mozzarella goodness of Italy's pizza and pasta. I learned more about Hinduism and came to appreciate my own faith even more as she struggled to find herself in India. My optimist side smiled as she found love in an unexpected place; I genuinely felt happy for her as her story wrapped up on a positive and very whole note in Indonesia.

Then last Saturday, I finally had the chance to watch the film with my best bud, Mitch. She had not read the book, so she had zero expectations when it came to the film. Meanwhile, I told myself that I shouldn't compare it to its book sibling. They were two very different formats and definitely, a number of events and nuances in the book wouldn't and couldn't be captured in the movie.

So there we were, two friends with different mindsets. We entered the cinema, the lights dimmed, and we were transported into Liz Gilbert's world, courtesy of Julia Roberts.

In order to keep this review short and sweet, I'll list down what I thought were the highlights and low points of the film. People who have not seen it and plan on being surprised: READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.

The Good
  • Julia Roberts. She was flawless as Liz Gilbert even though I felt that Liz Gilbert's characterization fell short (I'll explain this later). Julia had so many amazing moments onscreen and she showcased her versatility as an actress through the different emotions she had to portray: from angry, to depressed, to ecstatic, to contemplative, to sympathetic, to melancholy. Through her portrayal of Liz Gilbert, I can see why people missed her "silence" these last few years as she focused on being a wife and mom. It was refreshing to see her in her element once more.
  • The "travelogue" scenes. We feel the hectic vibe of New York coursing through our veins at the beginning of the movie. We see the mixture of old and new, chic and history in Italy. We relate to the urban and rural Indian setting as their Asian neighbor. We fall in love with the picturesque quietude of Bali. Seeing all these scenes makes you want to book a plane ticket and see, hear, smell, and experience the rest of the world.
  • The food shots in Italy. Being a hardcore Italian cuisine lover (scroll through my previous blog entries, per favore), I died a million times whenever Liz Gilbert would indulge in her pasta and pizza dishes. I could almost smell and taste the tomato sauces and savor the mozzarella. I salivated, my stomach grumbled, and I wished that I could transport myself to Da Michele in Naples right that instant.
  • Richard Jenkins as "Richard from Texas", the first one to befriend Liz Gilbert in the ashram in India. His acting was impeccable and he was probably my favorite character.
  • Hadi Subiyanto as Ketut, Liz Gilbert's spiritual and all-around guru in Indonesia. He was incredibly charming and amusing in a wise, Yoda-esque but grandfatherly way. I wished that I could meet someone like him.
  • The other secondary characters. Javier Bardem as Liz Gilbert's Brazilian lover, Felipe, in Indonesia is both manly and charming. I was particularly touched in the scene wherein he says goodbye to his grown son. Viola Davis as Delia, Liz's best friend in New York, was likewise credible. I also enjoyed the performances of the other actors: Tuva Novotny as Liz's first friend in Italy, and Rushita Singh as the young woman in the Indian ashram, were two of my favorites.
The Bad
  • The setup of the story. Liz Gilbert leaves her husband (played by Billy Crudup) and this begins her downward spiral. Why? Incompatibility issues? She doesn't love him anymore? I don't know. It seemed to me that one minute they were together and the next, they weren't. I felt that maybe even a fourth of the movie should have been dedicated to the setup as it was the catalyst for a chain reaction of events -- her relationship with David (James Franco), the end of their relationship, her realizations and eventual decision to take the next year off. Because these scenes were barely touched, her one-year journey away from home felt like an indulgent, selfish thing to do.
  • The pacing. I felt that certain sequences were too rushed (the setup being one of them). Since the premise of the film was supposed to be Liz Gilbert's introspection, I imagined that the film would unfold in a fluid, slow[er], reflective manner. Instead, some of the scenes were filmed in jump cuts (very much the way Glee is edited; in case you didn't know, the director of Eat Pray Love, Ryan Murphy, is the creator of Glee), making the film feel fast-paced as a whole.
  • Shallow story-telling. Apart from its pace, I felt that what could have been pivotal scenes weren't given their due importance. Liz Gilbert's morning meditation scene in the ashram, for example. That instance was treated in an almost comedic way when there were hints of her needing to find that "peace" needed to meditate. I imagine that some time could have been given to that struggle of hers, which would then lead us to infer more about her inner, deeper dilemmas.
  • Liz Gilbert's characterization. Again, this is not directed towards Julia Roberts because, as mentioned earlier, I enjoyed her performance. However, I was bothered by the way she was made to portray Liz Gilbert. Not to compare Book Liz from Movie Liz, but it seemed that they were two totally different people. The former was pensive, a bit more open and tolerant of people and experiences. The latter was whiny, clingy, self-indulgent, and, to be frank, a bit too desperate at times. I welcomed Book Liz's insights and transformation from withdrawn and mellow to out in the world once more. I grew increasingly agitated at Movie Liz for being so selfish and blind to see what was in front of her. Perhaps this is largely due to the manner of story-telling. We weren't given enough time to understand Liz Gilbert's inner demons, hence our shallow perspective of her.
The Ugly
  • Nothing, really. I wasn't entirely disappointed with the movie, although I felt that generally, it could have been better.

Would I watch Eat Pray Love again? Sure, I would. I'd gladly go with my sister, mom, or even friends who haven't seen it yet. Admittedly, despite the negative points I mentioned, I still enjoyed the film. In fact, I think that I might have actually liked it a lot if I didn't read the book because I'm pretty sure that 99% of what I wrote was influenced by my prior knowledge of the storytelling in the book. If I had no idea what the book was about, I'd probably like the movie on a feel-good, pseudo-romantic comedy level.

To sum it up, Eat Pray Love wasn't quite Under the Tuscan Sun, but it had its shining moments. It still made me wish that I could pig out on pasta and pizza and go on a personal sojourn. I'd give this film three out of five stars.

On another note, Julia Roberts, welcome back to the big screen. Your brilliance was highly missed!

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2 comments

  1. thanks for the head's up about the film :) I do plan on reading the book first ;)

    cool blog! will be adding you to my blog roll:)

    Nicole (http://kookiekulasa.blogspot.com)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey, Nicole!

    Sorry for such a late reply. I'm horrible at checking to see if my entries have generated comments. LOL!

    Were you able to read and watch? How'd you find it? :)

    And thanks for the add!

    ReplyDelete

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