Turns out the very cool and entertaining hot new flick of the weekend, Eat Pray Love, was scheduled to begin shortly and there were plenty of seats available. The film, just in case you’ve been in a coma the last few years, is based on the bestseller by Elizabeth Gilbert, detailing the year Gilbert spent living in Italy, India and Indonesia after her marriage ended in divorce and a romance she quickly stumbled into failed.
Perhaps I should have thought through the collegial comment of the only person of the male persuasion I spotted walking into the theater when he called out to me, saying he was “glad to see at least one other guy was talked into seeing this movie.”
It took me a few moments to process what he had actually said, but a quick look around the theater before it went black pretty much confirmed what the guy was suggesting – chick flick! In fact, I’m pretty sure if you look up the term in the dictionary, one of the definitions will be “Eat Pray Love”!
That’s not to say this ode to self-absorption and all things touchy-feely was bad. The cinematography was beautiful, the locations – Rome, India and Bali – exotic, even mildly transcendent, and the story amusing, entertaining, occasionally unsettling and thought provoking in a cliché-filled sort of way.
If only the writer and director had stopped at “Eat,” I’d be able to offer the proverbial “thumbs up” for this effort. Gastronomically speaking, the film comes together nicely when Liz, the Julia Roberts character, flies off to Rome to find her passion for food – and life – once again.
The filmmaker, that would be Director Ryan Murphy, is at his best gently caressing veggies with virgin olive oil, lingering over mounds of pasta, seductively offering up feasts that whet the appetite and make the point that it’s really okay to enjoy food and it’s really okay sometimes just to do absolutely nothing because, well, just because gosh darn it!
The rest of the film is mostly about that enigmatic “because” and stumbles around tossing about clichés with abandon – let go and let God, empty your mind and focus on the present, you have to swim the moat to reach the castle.
Phooey, I say! As entertainment, the book and movie are okay – I guess. But as some sort of philosophical statement – its raison d'être, you’d think – offering answers about the stuff of life, it’s infantile and boorish.
Watching poor Liz wrestle with her demons, I simply want to tell her to get a friggin’ grip! In the real world there are millions – actually, ahhh, billions – of people who don’t have the luxury to fly off to exotic spots to contemplate their lint-filled navels, people dealing with real problems.
So I was hoping one of the many gurus in the film, busy offering up bromides and aphorisms, might start quoting Saint Francis of Assisi – hey, I know some Christian stuff – and suggest Liz table her woes for awhile and try helping others, “for it is in giving that we receive.”
One last note. My spiritual leader (SL), the white-bearded guy who offers up the occasional D’var Torah on Shabbat and tells jokes at my shul, shared this bit of wisdom a few years ago.
Moise and Yankle were butchers, slaving away in a tiny shop in their little shtetl. Yankle was unhappy and one day went to shul to talk with the rebbe. He came back, a smile filling his face.
That afternoon, after working only an hour or so, he told Moise he had to dash off to Torah study. The next morning he came in two hours late, beaming, and told his brother that he spent the early hours in prayer. Later, he took off for afternoon prayers, then again left early for evening prayers and more Torah study.
This went on for a month. Finally, after another wonderful morning of prayer, Yankle showed up at work beaming, his heart filled with joy. “Moise,” Yankle said to his brother, busy at the moment sharpening his butcher’s knife. “You can find God, too; you can be happy, just like me, praying and studying all day long.”
Moise glanced over at Yankle, holding up his gleaming knife and smiling. “Yankle,” he said, “someone has to cut the meat.”
The challenge, for Liz and all the rest of us, is finding that spiritual part of ourselves while managing to “cut the meat.” It’s a trick my guru calls balance.
KODAK MOMENT: Author Elizabeth Gilbert (photo above) spent a year looking for herself and details what she found in "Eat Pray Love", now a moive starring Julia Roberts. How cool is that!