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Eat, Pray, Love: A Movie

December 29, 2010

I have mixed feelings when it comes to the movie version of this memoir.

HATE IT

First of all, I hate this movie! I know why – besides reading a lot of negative reviews from professional critics or listening to nasty comments from emotional friends, I am not really keen on visualizing the private thoughts of Ms Gilbert on the silver screen and making them look insignificant. I just want to immortalize all the magic in the memoir for myself and never let the visual images spoil its special quality. So, I told myself not to be bothered at all by this movie. Alas, one night, I was forced to watch the movie with some friends and, yes, it is indeed baaaaaaad. Too slow. Too shallow. Artificial. Fake. Boring. Just like most of the other book-based films, it lacks the emotional weight of its original story. It seems that all my intimate moments with Ms Gilbert are now being dumped into the Hollow Valley of Eternal Boredom. It’s a horrible feeling.

Here is the comparison. In the memoir, there is a critical moment when Ms Gilbert is having a conflict with herself in the bathroom floor of her big house in New York. She is sobbing and fighting for every reason as to why she should not be married anymore, until a secret voice says, “Go back to bed, Liz.” Ms Gilbert describes this intense moment in great detail that goes beyond a few pages. The movie, however, visualizes it in just a few seconds. I was frustrated. It has lost the magic and the power of narration that it is supposed to have. The movie apparently has become character-driven, a kind of Julia Roberts’ love story (though I still adore Julia Roberts’ famous smile). Unlike the memoir which gives more emphasis on deep spiritual issues like God or Love, the movie has put these issues at the periphery, making them look like a homeless man on the street. Sometimes, I wish I would never have read the memoir and therefore enjoy the movie as it is.

LOVE IT

Which is exactly how I should watch a movie like this – just enjoy it as it is. While I could still supplement whatever loopholes in the movie with the information from the memoir, I don’t have to be all too critical comparing it with some great literature of Charles Dickens or Ibn Battuta. So, I forced myself to watch this movie again for the second time, just to give it a second chance and, who knows, I could see it from another perspective. And for this round, I changed the strategy. I wanted to see it from the director’s point of view. After all, Ryan Murphy is the director, and I knew I could enjoy watching his movie as much as I enjoy watching his musical Glee on TV. In the end, my strategy really worked – I love this movie!

Okay, here are some trivias. I love the part when body gestures are portrayed as the important tool of non-verbal communication among the Italians (though for vulgar reasons). I love the part when Julia Roberts says “Terima kasih” to Ketut Liyer. I love the part when Lizz is having a fight with Felipe before it ends with a smooching kiss (you wouldn’t find this kind of melodrama in the memoir). I suppose the movie director is trying too hard to appeal his broad non-philosophical crowd by adding some commercial elements of twisted drama and unnecessary romance and linguistic comedy (which I don’t mind at all). Many of them are too cliché, but hey, I love cliches. It gives me this feel-good feeling that I always need from a movie. But still, I have mixed feelings about it. It’s like when you’re listening to your nagging beautiful lover. You hate it, yet love it.

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