Directed by Ryan Murphy
Written by Ryan Murphy & Jennifer Salt
Soul searching is a human experience. We all have done it. Taken the time out of our day, week, month, or even year just to see where we are in life. Are we happy with where we are? Where we are going? John Mayer, admittedly a polorizing figure, has a song called “In Repair”. Mayer has discussed it, saying that it is about the fact that we are never exactly where we want to be in life, we are either working towards it, or on our way down from that one passing moment of perfection in our lives. With this in mind, I would dare say that soul searching, while a distinctly individual experience, is something that everyone can relate to in some form or another. Eat Pray Love is that story for Elizabeth Gilbert (Julia Roberts). Based on the popular book of the same title, I actually did not know it was a work of non-fiction until the credits rolled at the end and I saw Elizabeth Gilbert was the author of the book as well. That little factoid probably does not matter much, but at the same time it makes my experience with this film that much more personal.
Before I go into the reasons I loved the movie, let me state the fact that I know exactly why I liked it, and it was not because it was some amazing piece of filmmaking, or great performances or stunning visuals. The reason I loved the movie was all in the themes and story. And that being said, I can say the film itself was not even exceptionally well written. So I guess what I am saying is that in terms of it being a film, it was probably about average, but in terms of a film going experience it was astoundingly successful for me. I made an emotional connection with all the things Liz was going through and it really hit me, it really made me think, and it really reassured me in many way. And those are the reasons I liked the film so much.
The cast was great. A lot of people I know and like: James Franco, Billy Crudup, Javier Bardem, Richard Jenkins (who was probably my favorite here), and of course the lovely Julia Roberts. But none of them gave stand out performances. The one performace I did really like was Hadi Subiyanto who played the Bali medicince man Ketut Liyer. His character was just infectious. And the cinematography was lovely too, though I credit that more to Mother Earth than I do necessarily to Robert Richardson, who has done some fine fine work.
So with all of the physical descriptions of the movie out of the way, let me try and explain just why it connected so well with me on the emotional level, which may be hard to do spoiler free, but I assure you I will do my darndest. Let’s start with the title of the film, seems sensible enough. So we have “Eat”. Well Liz certainly does this during her travels, but what does it mean, this eating. Well it means sustaining life. We all must eat to live, it is essential, but we go one step further and eating becomes all of the simple pleasures in life that often go un discovered or ignored by a good number of people in the world. For me, it is these simple pleasures and “little things” that generally get me through each day, and there are plenty represented in the film. So eating transforms into also meaning enjoying the little things, the simple pleasures that we deserve.
Next we have the word “Pray”. How many of us pray? I’ll admit it, I do not pray. At least not in the sense that probably 99% of the population may define the word. Most of us think of praying as something you do to God or a god. We get on our knees, and talk to someone who isn’t there, yet has all the power in the world to fulfill our desparate pleas of help. But how many of us remember to thank God for all of his blessings too? Sure, a good number, but what percentage of our prayers deal with this? I would surmise a guess that a low number of prayers include thanks. But praying, in my eyes, is not just to God or the creator, but it is for us too. It is a way of freeing ourselves, of meditating. Too often in this day and age people are in fast forward. What happened to being able to just sit there, relax, and think about nothing? Or think about our lives, to reflect? People move too fast these days and just let life race past them without spending the time to appreciate it. Liz finds that appreciation here too.
So we are left with “Love”, one of my most favorite themes in anything ever. Love is such a fun thing, right? We all love, we have the capacity to care for someone else, to love that person. We also have the capacity to accept the love of others, it’s a beautiful thing. There is a line in the movie where Rochard Jenkins tells Julia Roberts, “I think one day you will be able to love the whole world.” She is still searching for who she is, where she wants to be, but love will always be a factor in the equation of life for each and every one of us. There is love of all kinds, but as a 40 something woman, Liz is looking for that romantic love in her life. She meets various men, all, for Hollywood’s sake, happen to be dashing and handsome men, and falls for them, spending time after she has left her husband, searching for the person to share her love with. While maybe not every moment is hit, the direction the film takes with regard to this theme was enough to convince me that by the end, she very well may have loved the whole world.
Whether or not that is true, being based on a true story, is not important. It is a movie, it is fiction, it is an escape, a place where I am able to go to find the values I hold close to my life. The fact that I want to travel, the fact that I want to experience not just language or geography, but culture, the fact that I want to be able to find love someday, that I want to love the whole world; this film just seemed to line up with me on the right emotions with me in the right frame of mind. It may not work for some int he way it worked for me, but it is something that I can see bringing joy to my life for times to come. I think I’ll go read the book now too…