Eat, Pray, Love
by Elaine Hegwood Bowen
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Eat, Pray, Love is a story of one woman’s exploration of herself and release of the demons that had kept her from knowing herself for too many years. But in order to release these demons, Julie Roberts, who plays Liz Gilbert, has to give up everything and go on a journey.
Eat, Pray, Love is based on the life story of writer Elizabeth Gilbert. Liz decides, after being in a loveless, stagnant marriage, that she’d prefer to chuck it all and go to Italy, India and Bali. Her associate, Delia, played by Viola Davis, is happily married, and it seems everyone is happy but Liz. So when her husband tells her that he wants to go back to school to get a master’s in education, Liz figures enough is enough and that she needs to untangle the mystery that has become her life. She admits that she’s become so empty and lifeless that there has to be more.
The first part of the movie was just so intertwined with food, that while Liz was enjoying meals in Italy, it seemed as if each meal was an opera. She found such satisfaction in the pasta, pizza and prosciutto while dining at different restaurants. Liz does make friends in Italy, learns the language quite well and even prepares an old fashioned turkey dinner for Thanksgiving before going on to India. But one important thing she learns is to let go and not worry about what she was doing or whether she was enjoying life too much. After all, there were new dishes to try and a bigger sized pair of jeans just around the corner.
In the next location, Richard Jenkins plays a cool, playful sojourner in India who calls Liz “groceries” because she eats so much. They forge an unlikely friendship, because Liz resists being friends with him, because she’s come to India to meditate. Jenkins has come to India to meditate also; and he’s been there for a few years. After a while, the two become friends and she’s sad to see him go back to his home in Texas. He’s had his own issues with which to deal, as he has suffered from addictions and a divorce that was prompted by him nearly running over his child with his car during a drunken drive home.
I thought it odd, however, that Liz would make friends with a local Indian girl so much so that when she was willed into marriage by her family, Liz and Richard were at the ceremony. I just didn’t see how Liz would so openingly be invited into the family.
Liz’s next journey to Bali is where all the “love” takes place. She meets a man named Felipe, played by Javier Bardem, who sweeps her off her feet; but Liz isn’t sure if she wants to be swept away. Throughout the movie, she thinks about her ex-husband and also the actor ex-boyfriend with whom she had a brief fling. But it is in these reflections that Liz finally comes into her own; with the help of the old medicine man that she had met a year earlier while still on assignment. When she reunites with him on the final leg of her trip, Liz helps him preserve his ancient writings, and he encourages her to once again chuck it all for the love she’s found in Felipe. Liz finally sees that she can love herself, as well as open herself up to Felipe. She’s found balance within the imbalance, so to speak.
The journey wasn’t all peaches and cream, as Liz faced resistance from other women, especially older, who always asked why she wasn’t married and why she was traveling alone. But Liz proves that sometimes being alone is what’s needed to make a person feel that much closer to the mate that God has placed in one’s path.
Elaine Hegwood Bowen is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago.
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