I’m not a spiritual person, so the whole Eat Pray Love book phenomenon of 2007 totally passed me by. But I was given a sneak preview of the film last week, and while the ‘searching for myself’ theme made me feel a bit queasy, I’m glad I saw the movie at the cinema.
The reason? Travel porn – cinematography so beautiful, you could eat it.
That’s especially true of Rome, the Eat part of the film. Here, Julia Robert’s character (the real-life Elizabeth Gilbert, whose year-in-the-life memoirs the film is based on) sticks two fingers up to the stupid Atkins diet and goes into carb overload – all in glorious technicolour. She dawdles by the Trevi Fountain, eating bite after bite of Italian gelato.
Stuffs herself with pizza and pasta by the Piazza Navona. And learns to love proper Italian coffee. (I don’t know why we call it that. It’s not grown in Italy, but they do have a way of making it that is so much better than the American method.)
Rome plays the backdrop to her glorious gluttony, and it brings the city to life like few films since Roman Holiday. For more on Rome, see http://www.tripideas.co.uk/posts/view/5850/Rome-Italy-Novel-trip-of-discovery
Bali, where she learns about love again (I’m mentally gagging as I write that), sparkles and titillates with its come-hither blue-green waters and the swooshy sounds of leaves rustling in the tropical forest breezes. The temples and cafes entice, and you can almost smell the serenity in the air as you watch. Bali, of course, is a bit of a party hot-spot for Aussies in particular, and this side is shown, ever so briefly, but if you stay somewhere like Como Shambala, you need never cross paths with drunken tourists. For more on Bali, see this: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-1305177/Eat-Pray-Love-Julia-Roberts-Bali-island.html
India is, of course, pray. She goes to an ashram. It’s grim. She watches an arranged marriage and fails to do anything to help the girl escape it, despite the obvious hints from the girl. You see little of the real India except this too-bright, too-garish wedding, whose outlandish colours and music remind one of the person who laughs too loudly to hide the tears running down their face.
This isn’t India. Well, it is and it isn’t. That could be said of any depiction of India, of course (and heck, most places – nowhere is the same all over). But it’s unfortunate in Eat Pray Love that you don’t see much of India outside the ashram (most of these are now populated almost entirely by rich Americans and Europeans trying to ‘find themselves’) – which is a shame, because there’s the briefest glimpse of the insanity of Delhi on her way to the ashram, but only enough to tease rather than satisfy. Still, the film is based on the book, and if that’s Elizabeth Gilbert’s experience, then that’s how it had to be. For some more interesting Indian retreat ideas, see my article here: http://www.tripideas.co.uk/posts/view/5851/Find-your-inner-peace-in-mystical-India
New York also gets a look in – not a particularly pleasant one, as her time here was sad, so it’s shown as perenially gloomy, yet its strikingly atmospheric, too. The darkness of the New York cinematography only adds to its allure.
The book has spawned a massive amount of interest in Eat Pray Love tourism (there are plenty of Eat Pray Love tours out there, especially in America). And after seeing the film, I’d say Rome and Bali had best prepare themselves for more women in search of pizza, pasta and passion.
See Eat Pray Love at cinemas in the UK from 24 September 2010.