Oh And By The Way

Because it was raining, I decided to ignore the horrendous reviews and went to see “Eat Pray Love” last week (a 40-mile round trip, out there in the Eastern Shore boonies) and was glad I did.

What I noticed about the reviews was how many of them attacked the movie on the basis of the book — a book, the reviewers took great pains to point out, they hadn’t actually read. And I noticed several feminist blogs took great delight in savaging both the book and the movie — while admitting they hadn’t read the book, nor seen the movie.

It was all very meta. Apparently they were reviewing it on the basis of the reviews, and were scornful of Gilbert’s success, and the fact that she appeared on Oprah. The feminist blogs I’d seen kept saying Gilbert was a white woman of privilege, and the book was not to be taken seriously — even though the writers had only “scanned it briefly.” (I took no small glee in the fact that white female PhDs were the ones attacking Gilbert on the basis of white privilege. I like to think I’m a little more sensitive than most to this issue, but apparently not. But I digress!)

They even called her a no-talent hack — the person who’s written one of the best debut novels ever.

Anyway, so I drove to the Chestertown 5 and there were many middle-aged and elderly women there for the show. I did see one middle-aged married couple go in, and the husband looked angry.

I was surprised at how much I liked it. For once, Julia Roberts manages to control her patented mannerisms and act pretty much like a normal person. And the movie captures the charming humor and downright goofiness of Gilbert’s narrative voice.

It could have been better edited. I suspect the movie was a lot longer, because the transitions between Italy, India and Bali are a lot more abrupt then they were in the book, and the character of David is kind of a blur, but it’s only a small complaint.

When the movie let out, I saw that married couple again. (They were parked next to me.) She was smiling and talking about how much she liked the movie, and he cut her off with, “It was one cliche after another. And all those beautiful locations! Is that real life for anyone?” She looked at him like he’d slapped her.

So while I was sitting there in the parking lot, I took advantage of a clear cell signal to call my friend Somegirl, who’d also loved the book. “Why are people so damned hostile toward this?” I asked. She said she thought some of them were jealous.

Plus, I can say this with some confidence: People who have never been on a spiritual journey simply can’t understand the point, will denigrate the very idea, and will even attack anyone who acts as if it’s worthwhile. It’s just one of those things.

So if you’re one of those people, you probably won’t like this movie, just on general principles. But if you’re not, and you’re on that path, too, I suspect you’ll like it. I did.

6 thoughts on “Oh And By The Way

  1. I began reading the book but didn’t finish it. Not sure why… I began reading a lot of murder mysteries and science fiction. I guess right now I want escapist stuff and the memoir wasn’t that for me. I’ll probably see the movie later when I can afford movies again.

  2. The people that I saw criticizing it were all about “the white girl needing the pretty colored people to gain insight.” I don’t know what goes on in the movie, but they were all “Oh, she left that perfectly good husband to go find herself,” and “I wish somebody would hand me a small fortune to find myself.”
    All small and shallow criticisms. Maybe they should go on their own journeys.

  3. The part that amuses me is, Liz Gilbert has been a respected journalist for years. Nobody “handed” her money, she sold a book proposal on the basis of her professional track record and then had to, you know, actually write the book? It wasn’t as if she’d hit the lottery.

  4. didn’t read the book and didn’t like the movie. i don’t mind the white person going to foreign culture genre. it’s never made sense to me why so many people have such a strong beef against it. nor do i care that the film was about a woman of relative privilege (let’s face it, most movies are about not-poor people. even the films that are set in the ghettos often focus on the gangsters, the only rich people around). but those things aren’t my problem with the film.

    it’s more the pat self-discovery narrative that i don’t like. i always find films like that to be a little vapid, and there is an extra danger when the self-discovery takes place in a foreign land. i’ve traveled to a bunch of foreign cultures and often met people who view their travels as some kind of life-changing moment. but when i talk to them they almost always strike me as having grossly over-simplified the other culture. in a sense they’re really just seeing what they want to see. it feels like those travelers aren’t even really in the same place as me, even if we are sitting right next to each other in damascus or hanoi or wherever.

    it’s those type of travelers that the movie reminded me of. i have no idea whether the actual liz was one of those types. it’s quite possible that she wasn’t. but the film certainly never took the viewer beyond that surface level that annoys me so much when i see it in person.

    and no, i never read the book. but the movie should stand or fall on its own merits. i acknowledge that the book is probably better. it almost always is.

  5. Oh, I agree. If I hadn’t read the book, I’d feel the same way, because they really don’t address the spiritual journey except in passing.

    I wasn’t nominating this for movie of the year, by the way. I was just surprised at the amount of venom it attracted, and was relieved to instead have an enjoyable two hours.

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