If a picture is worth one thousand words, why is a motion picture always missing something? Monday night was girls night out to see Eat Pray Love. I enjoyed the movie and wondered why it received unfavorable reviews, why it left one person praying for it to end? I read the book when it came out four years ago and was glad to have some background knowledge on Elizabeth Gilbert. While the movie tried to place her quickly in marriage, the book left me with a more desperate feeling of Liz crying on the bathroom floor, more frustrated in stagnant life to leave it. The movie picked up as we shared in the first views of Italy. The bridge scene looked like something more from Florence than Rome, but she was in Rome by sun down.
The two-hour film was enjoyable, Liz finding a group of friends in Italy, running the streets to learn language with your body, tripping over the t’s, rolling the r’s. She found a balance of people to be thankful for as she filled up on food. The food in the book tasted better, or maybe the book described eating more often, and more enjoyably than I saw in a simple spaghetti plate with basil. In the book I was more in Elizabeth’s mind, instead of watching her from my Napoli window. Elizabeth Gilbert had more dialogue with herself, the voices in her head, and when she overcame her relationships, found balance in meditation, so did I.
Before Elizabeth left for her year-long trip, four months to eat in Italy, four months to pray in India, and four to close out the year in Bali, Indonesia, we got a glimpse into why. Her travel box was a collection of maps, notes and starfish. It was a point at which she stopped walking down the American sidewalk, stopped in her tracks, and began to wonder what life would be like if she lived each day reaching for what amazed her. Within the first few scenes of Italy, Elizabeth finds herself laughing in a barber shop, learning the social problem of Americans, that an American doesn’t know how to enjoy doing nothing well at all. Ah, but Italians do- smiles, loudness, bluntness, finding desert in business man packed cafes, eating pizza with a girlfriend, watching soccer in the piazza, then buying bigger jeans to fit it all in. Elizabeth curls up one late evening with her asparagus and sunset on a thin pink rug in her flat and considers just this.
Just at this cozy point we are shifted to busy, stranded, starved, filthy streets, through all of these pan-slamming passage ways of India to an Ashram Shrine. It is here in the book that she begins to release her guilt, release herself from expectancies of the tight rope, straight line, straight-laced marriage agreements her husband and she held up for one another under vows. We sense that in the touching moments she spends with her new-found friend from Texas, up on the rooftop as morning comes to the Ashram.
Then, we ride through the Bali rice fields, the palm forests planted in successive years many years ago. The cinema photography is beautiful here, among the palm tree silhouettes. She has come here to love herself and ends up finding love that is opening, surprising and out on a limb sort of trusting. It is unconventional, she takes the advice of Ketut, balancing more than she sought out to.
The movie is at the pace of the book. It is slow in the most enjoyable way. You can’t find yourself quickly, and the journey you set out for will be different from what you expect. But, isn’t that is the point of reaching?