When I first learned that the book “Eat, Pray, Love” was being made into a movie, I was soooo not interested. However, my reasons for actually dishing out $7.50 for the matinee price to see it were threefold:

1. I wanted some “girl time” w/ my friend, and it was the only movie we could both agree on.

2. As the European travel editor over at BellaOnline.com, I wanted to do a movie review.

3. It’s hot as shit outside–movie theaters are nice and chilly!

Let me preface this by letting you in on the fact that I did not like the book. I liked the premise of soul-searching after a life crisis, especially one involving exotic travel, but I felt Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of the book, was totally self-absorbed and turned what could have been a beautiful adventure of self-realization into a whiny, rich-girl spa vacation. Wallowing in self-pity (divorce, failed love affair–whaaa.…) Liz decides to take 1 year sabbatical  divided neatly into 3 parts, beginning in Italy, where she will experience pleasure (read: self indulgence).  Julia Roberts plays the lead character, and I find it hard to feel pity for the dazzling beauty. Had she been rode hard and hung up wet, it may have stirred more emotion.

Next up is an ashram in India, where she devotes herself to finding spirituality. She befriends a crusty Texan and a reluctant Indian bride, both of whom have lessons to share, although you get the feeling that Liz wasn’t paying attention.  When she leaves, she has supposedly become enlightened, but it isn’t clear how that came to be. Was it the henna tattooed elephant?  Her duty to play a bubbly tour guide to an incoming group of devotees?

Ultimately, Liz ends up in Indonesia where she believes the perfect balance will magically illuminate her life.  Instead of allowing life to unfold as it may, Liz continues to control not only her experiences, but to “allow” the audience to see inside her over- indulgent mind. It seemed to me that any time the possibility of an “ah-ha” moment was afforded her, she turned it back to herself and made it, once again, all about her. UGH!  It’s  as if she expects her personal insights to become the universal truth, which, frankly, comes across as a bit patronizing.

Personally (and this comes from the social-worker inside me), I would rather have heard the gritty, real, fucked-up parts of herself that she keeps hidden well below the surface. The movie (and book) focus more on Liz’s magical year of exotic travel, never scratching the surface of human suffering.  Depressed? Looking for answers? Life not unfolding  quite as you hoped it would?  Run way for a year and gorge yourself on spaghetti and sexy men, and life will turn out fine. Just fine.

Hell, give me a nice advance to write a memoir while I take a year for self indulgence, and I’ll come up with a book, as well. And I guarantee it’ll have more substance than E,P,L.