Eat, Pray, Love: the book, the movie, the empire

My feeling after finishing the book Eat, Pray, Love (sometime in 2008 I think?) was that it was a good story of one woman’s life, but not one that particularly resonated with me. I didn’t love it or hate it, it didn’t piss me off, it didn’t make me contemplate the grand meaning of life, nothing, nada. I just put it down and moved on to a new book.

It seems I did not have the same experience as the rest of America. Not only did the book deeply touch a lot of women, but it raised the eyebrows of a lot of keen business people. The movie release has spawned a whole line of products, including but not limited to Eat, Pray, Love perfume, and exorbitantly priced vacations to mirror Gilbert’s.

And like anything that reaches a lot of people and has wild success, there is a counterculture of people who turn their nose up at the brew-ha-ha. It’s just like Lululemon. Half of the yogi world is devoted to the brand and the other half hates it and what it stands for.

My general “eh” feeling about the book aside, I went into the movie feeling open-minded. And…I liked it! I think Liz Gilbert’s story actually seemed more suited for the big screen than for print. Her tale seemed more transformative, less self-indulgent, more universal as a movie. Julia Roberts did a brilliant job portraying the glamorous and not-so-glamorous facets of self-reinvention. Her performance was believable and genuine. It was an artistically done film, wonderfully cast, touching in all the right moments, and heartbreakingly honest. My only big complaint is that they kind of made the ex-husband look like a total moron, and hey, there are two sides to every story, right?

And how is yoga depicted in the film? Honestly, there wasn’t any asana practice in the movie. There was one line about her boyfriend being a “crunchy yogi”. Once we see Liz defeatedly unrolling her mat in Rome, then shrugging it off to go eat more pasta (and she eats a LOT of pasta). But we get to see lots and lots of meditation and padmasana, including a hilarious scene where Liz fights the monkey mind to sit for a single minute of meditation before giving up – probably my favorite part of the whole movie.

Go see the movie, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Or if you’ve seen it, let me know what you thought!


PS- The most apt thing I’ve read about the Eat, Pray, Love phenomenon was this piece by Courtney at Feministing. I also enjoyed Slate’s piece on the literary perspective: “Who isn’t writing the next Eat, Pray, Love?” And since it’s so pertinent to the EPL theme, check out the How to Be Alone video, it’s gorgeous.


12 responses to “Eat, Pray, Love: the book, the movie, the empire

  1. My biggest problem with EPL the book was I found it so utterly devoid of humour. I also am in a quandry about whether you are actually “finding yourself” when a big publishing house is paying your way for you….. I have various issues with the whole “finding yourself” process but that’s a blog post in itself.

    I much preferred Lucy Edge’s “Yoga School Dropout”, because it made me laugh out loud again and again and again. Lucy is a Brit so I do wonder if part of this is a UK/US cultural divide thing (because there is one, a huge one especially in yoga it seems!)

    • I agree. I think the money thing is why I didn’t connect with the book at all. I’m glad Liz “found herself”, but it seems like it might be a hell of a lot easier to do when you can remove yourself from your life for a year. I would learn a lot more from someone who took Liz’s “inner journey” while holding down a job and other obligations that the rest of us face. Her breakdown seemed like more of a luxury than most women’s.

  2. I’ve never read EPL actually, I guess I’ve always been a bit skeptical about it. I think Ill borrow it from the library to know what the fuss is all about, but as Rachel puts it, it’s easy to go “find yourself” when everything is paid for for you… I’ll try to leave all my preconceived ideas behind and enjoy the read :-)

  3. Thanks for reporting on this! I’ve been on the fence about seeing it, since I was also “eh” about the book, and got a little annoyed at everyone loving it so much. But you’ve convinced me to give it a try :)

  4. I felt similar on the book – it was enjoyable, but nothing special – no aha moments. I’m glad you enjoyed the film though – it gives me hope. I love Julia Roberts and feel good movies, so I’m going to take the plunge, hoping I won’t be disappointed.

  5. Interesting. I totally loved the book. I really enjoyed Gilbert’s writing and I found her to be very humorous. And, to be honest, as cliched as it may be, EPL was the real beginning of my yoga journey. Gave me the courage to say “fuck it” and quit my high profile, big wig job and do a month long yoga teaching immersion program. I don’t see EPL as a super spiritual book, but I do love how she finally forgave herself. That is something we could all probably use a dose of! And…I am so excited to see the movie!

  6. I loved the book and felt like I could really connect to it and could relate it to my life. Even though she was traveling, I really believe her inner journey could happen to anyone who still is at home. Unfortunately, the movie lacked that relatable quality for me. I didn’t feel much of an emotional connection to on-screen Liz, but I did while reading!

    The whole Eat, Pray, Love “empire” is getting a bit out of control. Buying the stuff to be like Liz Gilbert won’t help anybody. Gotta go inside and do the emotional work there.

  7. just starting the book now! I want to read it before I see the movie, especially if the movie is better! Good thing I’m a fast reader (especially since I have 3 books on the go!)

  8. Response in a post on my blog!

    • Everyone should definitely read LaGitane’s post. She lives in Indonesia and has a unique perspective on the “finding yourself” traveling. Just click her name to find her blog. : )

  9. Hey Jamie – I didn’t read the book or see the movie but was very interested in what you and all your commenters had to say about both. I did see Liz Gilbert and Julia Roberts on Oprah the other day and Liz said the same thing you did about how the movie and Julia R. were able to make her story more an “everywoman’s” story and that Julia was so excellent at bringing out the emotions that everyone feels.
    One thing I must disagree with you about: Even though I did not actually see the movie or read the book, I can tell you that the ex-husband could not possibly have been made to look enough like a total moron. I am sharing my personal experiences with you and I can tell you two sides to the story or not, they are ALL TOTAL MORONS. I’m just sayin . . .

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