Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert: book and movie review (also the Great Library Challenge author G)

Posted by lea at 11:13 AM
Eat Pray Love the book

It wasn't the easiest thing to get into and I must admit I would've left it only half-finished if the movie wasn't coming out so soon. However, I'm glad I finished it because the latter half was better than the first.

It's as though Elizabeth Gilbert distilled her personal diary to write this book – it has the intimacy and warmth of someone not holding anything back, but it's also very beautifully written so you know she's crafted her words and stories carefully to bring the best of her experience to paper.

I started off skeptical – after all, it's about a privileged New Yorker running out on her marriage and real life to spend a year in exotic locations 'finding herself' – but I ended up won over. It's not just about her running away, but also running towards. She's seeking something more than herself (God) while seeking to find herself, and it becomes a spiritual journey where, by the end, she discovers contentment and a self-identity that she seems not to have had before. Who can argue with that?

Eat Pray Love the movie

Despite the presence of Julia Roberts and the lush international scenery, Eat Pray Love doesn't really work as a movie because ultimately the story is boring to watch on screen. It's such an intimate spiritual journey that most of the action happens in the interior, which doesn't translate well to an audience who expects a climactic movie experience.

Apart from the breakdown of her marriage in the beginning, there are no major highs or lows – it's all a very linear journey of self-discovery. At times, especially the beginning, the movie felt like a string of 'this is a re-enactment' scenes from a reality TV show – especially the use of that hazy filter and backlighting the first time she goes to Bali. Then the showdown scene between her and Felipe (Javier Bardem) at the end just didn't ring true to me at all. Maybe it's because it didn't happen in the book, but I was totally prepared for them to deviate from the plot of the book (in fact I expected it), but even then the whole scene seemed rather a false attempt to create some dynamic in an otherwise flat movie plot.

My conclusion

I thought that the critics were unduly harsh about the story when the first movie reviews came out, but I can see why they would have come to that conclusion now. In the movie, you don't get the full in-depth experience that you do with the book, so it's easy to overlook the whole thing as the self-indulgent whims of a Western woman.

In fact to be honest, that's how I first felt when the book topped all the bestseller lists and caused such a scene in the book-reading world. I avoided it for a long time and only decided to read it finally because I watched Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk and thought she sounded awfully wise and well-grounded.

After reading her book, I'm more convinced of that assessment. It is a wise book, full of lessons learned and lots of humour too. She has a great writing voice, and there were a lot of moments that resonated with me as a reader, which I'm sure is why the book was so popular.

Now onto H of my Great Library Challenge. I decided on Matt Haig and wanted to read The Radleys, but the library didn't have it so I'm now waiting for my book to arrive from the Book Depository. Any suggestions for an author beginning with 'I' would be appreciated because Surry Hills library only has a single short shelf for I, which consists of approximately 11 books only. Help!

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