It's always a dicey situation when a beloved, best-selling book is made into a film: Lovers of the book complain that the screen version isn't a faithful adaptation, while film buffs fiercely maintain that the movie is far superior.
This debate will almost certainly play out when Eat Pray Love (starring Julia Roberts) opens tomorrow. The movie is based on Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir of the same name (except with commas), which has sold more than nine million copies worldwide. That's a whole lot of would-be complainers ... who, if you ask me, shouldn't find a lot to grumble about once they see the film.
But then again, I didn't like the book.
I've never understood why so many people were able to connect with Gilbert's book. True, we all face pain and heartbreak much like she does, but that's precisely where the similarities come to a screeching halt. Whereas Gilbert convinced her publisher to finance a year-long journey through Italy, India, and Bali, the rest of us have to make do with whatever spiritual growth and self-discovery comes from slogging to our jobs each day and watching TV on the couch each night.
Do I sound jealous? Good! Because that's exactly my point: Gilbert's journey is so very particular and so fantastical that while I may have found it an interesting read, I couldn't relate to her life because I was too busy wanting it for my own
My other problem with the book -- and this is hard to admit -- was Gilbert herself. Simply put, in this book, she's difficult to like. It's hard to get past the fact that's she so self-involved and at times borderline histrionic. I found making it through a 300-plus-page book in which the author takes herself sooooo seriously -- seriously exhausting.
The movie, however, is a different story because it succeeds where the book fails. Instead of telling the story about one woman's very specific path to spiritual enlightenment and self-discovery, it imparts a more universal tale about the search for love. More specifically, Eat Pray Love (the movie) is a snapshot of that precious yet uncomfortable space in time that falls in between losing love and finding it again -- and who can't relate to that?
Moreover, Julia Roberts makes Liz Gilbert likable by bringing lightness and a sense of humor to the role. We actually want to hear what this character has to say instead of frustraingly flipping to the end just so we can get some peace and quiet.
Throw in some hot Hollywood men (Javier Bardem, James Franco, Billy Crudup), breathtaking shots of Italy, India, and Bali, some serious food porn, and a slew of "no carb left beind" and "I'm having a relationship with my pizza" jokes, and you've got yourself the quintessential summer chick flick. It's romantic, touching, and fun with just enough substance to not make you hate yourself the morning after.
Are you going to see Eat Pray Love?
Image via Sony Pictures