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Hollywood Feminism: Eat Pray Love … Vomit Rinse Repeat
Written by Ann McElhinney   
Tuesday, 21 September 2010 23:22

I saw Eat Pray Love over the weekend. I can’t remember the last film I walked out of but I certainly wanted to walk out of this one. I stayed because I want to know what is going in the world. I know now and it’s not good.

The cinema was half full, almost all were women.


The film is deeply depressing. I recently saw Precious, I had avoided it because I thought it would be predictable and depressing. It’s not, even with its subject matter.

However nothing in the cinema this decade has depressed me as much as Eat Pray Love’s hymn to vacuous selfishness. There are 16 year olds who have more profound insights. Talking of 16 year olds, the journey of enlightenment taken by Liz Gilbert (Julia Roberts) in the film is very reminiscent of 16 year old’s experiences; girl meets a boy, falls in love with him, gets bored, chants a bit and meets another boy, bliss.

Back to the story, Eat Pray Love is criminally dull.

In brief, a very rich 40 something woman who has EVERYTHING including the love of everyone she ever meets and a good husband and a home in the country as well as a place in Manhattan and a terrific writing career, feels sad, feels there is something missing. She sets off on a quest to find food (Italy), God (India) and Love (Indonesia) or more simply she goes off on a self indulgent holiday around the world for A YEAR.

SPOILER ALERT: She finds a new man, problem solved.

Everything about the film is superficial, from the emotional range of actress Julia Roberts’ Liz Gilbert, either a too toothful smile or tearful doe eyes, to the superficial travel brochure version of the places she visits. I worked in Italy for a wonderful year a long time ago, the Italians love food, they understand it and are very generous about it and their food is sensual. I had hoped to find some of that in EPL, it’s not there. Instead all the joys and pleasures of Italian food are reduced to heaped plates of Italian cliches, giant mounds spaghetti and pizza. The food photography is better in the Costco catalogue – unforgivable.

She journeys to India in search of God, apparently God can’t be contacted in America. That journey irritated me a lot too — it seemed so dated, so 60s, so Beatles. While she is there she be-friends a smart but terrified teenage Indian girl who is about to be married off in an arranged marriage and because this film is free from anything so mundane as a value, Ms. Gilbert offers no hope or escape for the poor girl. Cut to Ms. Gilbert resplendent in her sari attending the wedding and using the occasion to ruminate about her own wedding to someone she freely chose and who loved her dearly … I think they call that multiculturalism.

However, in Indonesia Ms. Gilbert befriends a single mother with financial issues. Bizarrely this case inspires Ms. Gilbert to intervene, she sends an email to her friends and instantly gets 18,000 dollars in the post, its so nice to be rich.

Amazing that neither the fate of the child in the arranged marriage nor the appalling poverty of India inspired any act of charity from Ms. Gilbert, but I forgot she was obsessing so much about herself she didn’t see anyone else.

One of the qualities of art and literature that make it miraculous is its ability to make us feel connected to lives lived in other times and other places. True art raises us up, inspires and ultimately makes us better people. Eat Pray Love offers none of this. Leaving the film on Saturday I felt just as disconnected from Liz Gilbert as I did from the teary-eyed Santa Monica women leaving the cinema with me.

I think I’m in trouble.

Originally posted on Big Hollywood

Comments (7)add comment

F said:

Well said!
Just stumbled across this and everything pointed out is so true. The movie was really meaningless..it was so shallow. Even as just entertainment it was really boring and had no real storyline. I couldn't have said it better then myself!!!
October 13, 2010
Votes: +8

Jo said:

Why this movie is 'difficult'
It turns out Elizabeth Gilbert admits that she financed her trip of self discovery by getting an advance to write the book.... so the whole thing has been engineered to a certain extent. Call me cynical but I'd take Eat Pray Love more seriously if she'd done the trip first, then written the book, then racked in the dollars....

December 31, 2010
Votes: +3

Tanya said:

Right words
Thanks so much ann for finding the right words to describe the movie. I am from Ukraine originally, my sister lives in Nepal - we know that when people from went travel east they have a culture shock.It makes you think about what you have and why. Liz Gilbert seem to stay empty becouse she can't get her mind off herself. It's a crime to make her a heroine.
January 21, 2011
Votes: +3

Tom Mayer said:

I was duped into watching this film by its title and was equally disturbed by its message. Good luck to all who are trying to raise conscientious children in this extremely, extremely narcissistic society. I do not commend the heroine for her selfish search that left so many broken and scattered in her wake.
February 01, 2011
Votes: +3

L. Steven Beene II said:

I did not see this film, as my wife is kind enough to not ask me to sit through to many "chick flicks" (I reciprocate on "guy movies" , lol)

So, She wants to remove herself from her rut. Not a bad start for a life re-eval.

She goes to India and sees a child about to be married off - and does nothing. How very American Feminist of her.

She goes to Indonesia (I've been there btw) and gives money to a woman who is in need. How very liberal democrat of her: this does not solve the long term problems of this person.

It sounds like a journey into narcisistic fulfilment that "makes her FEEL good" - like a heroin fix - when the reality is to stop taking the heroin.

Thanks for the review: so I don't waste my time.
May 04, 2011
Votes: +1

WOW said:

Eat Pray Love.... teaching selfishness on a new level
Take it from someone who dated a person that takes this book to heart! Not only did any attempt to be "together" fail, but any attempt at leaving a message because I didn't know where she was and was worried or being upset because we weren't together on special occasions like new years was met with an "I will do everything I need to do to be happy with myself." But was funny to get highly negative reactions when I gave her a taste of her own medicine. IMHO This book teaches on how to be selfish on a whole other level. Any successful relationship relies on 2 people working together, not one doing whatever they deem fit.
January 11, 2012
Votes: +1

Marganne Winter Oxley said:

Try reading her first book - "The Last American Man"
Hi Ann. We meet you and your husband and friend briefly years ago in the Teton Village hotel bar/lobby
when you guys were there to speak to a convention of state governors. We overheard you talking about
Al Gore and our group just had to chime in with our agreement. You gave us your website and showed us
your poster and we later saw the movie and followed your website. I'm about to go on Facebook and "LIKE"
your site. I read your review above and feel the same way...but I did LOVE her first book (The Last American man)
written long ago about a young mountain man and his brother traveling by horseback across the country. The scene with the
mules and the scene with the two cowboys / mountain men stepping out of a cab in NY City and running into
some street gangsters is hilarious and well worth the read! The whole book is good....but then I do like stories
about real things and real people. It is about Eustace Conway. He now runs a farm
in the mountains and teaches people to do & make things the old fashioned way. He is one of the mountain men
featured on the TV show "Mountain Men". He is an interesting character. (*see Turtle Mountain Preserve's website)
Just thought you might like it. Keep up the good work!! Sincerely, Marganne Winter Oxley
October 31, 2013
Votes: +0

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