I liked this movie. It was enjoyable to be along for the ride. Julia Roberts was the perfect choice to play Liz. I`ve seen Elizabeth Gilbert on Oprah and TED, and I was really impressed with how Julia channeled her. Julia is at her best when she is being vulnerable which makes her good in this movie and all Virgin stories. And this is a Virgin story. The Virgin journey of Eat, Pray, Love could be described as a woman who keeps molding herself to what other people are attracted to, while suppressing her gift for exploring and creating bridges for personal transformation. Liz doesn’t just want to be happier, she wants to know what it looks like to go on the journey from miserable to happy and to share this discovery with the world. It is the same drive she has to travel and describe the world to people.
Where the beats of the Virgin`s journey are included, they are sometimes subtle and in a new order which made it interesting. Where the movie missed a beat I think it missed the chance to be a truly great movie. Let’s look at the beats.
The Dependent World is Liz`s need to shape herself into what other people want. She doesn`t know who she is so she tries to be what someone wants. Liz’s Price of Conformity is becoming so depressed she can no longer function in her marriage or her affair and she bails on her life and goes to Rome (Opportunity to Shine). Here she finds a refuge when she can feel her own feelings and she grows stronger (Secret World). The only back and forth is when she speaks to her lover via email and phone and breaks up with him. This is weak but rare.
We see Liz shine when she sits in the pizza restaurant in Napoli and expounds the virtues of really taking in pleasure rather than thinking about being attractive to another. It is a powerful moment when the Virgin realizes she can follow her instinct for pleasure and she can choose her values separate from what others expect from her. This is Liz’s gift – the ability to explore the nature of the Virgin.
I felt the thanksgiving dinner belaboured the point. It was good for Liz to acknowledge she had learned to Dress the Part: allow pleasure to teach her she can make herself feel good and use that good feeling to drive you forward in her journey, even if she had to wear bigger pants. However, she was slightly self-pitying in her toast at dinner and the whole event needed to be shorter. I would have liked to have seen her portrayed as restless because it was a step but not the complete journey. This taste of knowing herself should drive her forward joyfully, or at least hopefully. Otherwise, it wasn’t really clear to me why she didn’t just stay in Rome (and don’t say “you have to read the book”).