by Rick Grant
This is the story of author Elizabeth Gilbert’s journey to enlightenment. Adapted to screenplay from Gilbert’s best selling memoir by Jennifer Salt with Julia Roberts playing Gilbert.
Gilbert goes to bed one night and announces to her husband, Stephen (Billy Grudup) that she doesn’t want to be married. She wants to travel to Italy, India, and Bali trying to find meaning in her life.
One day before her announcement to her husband, Gilbert had an epiphany that since she was in her late teens, her life had been defined by the men in her life. She had never lived alone, and consequently, she had never developed her own concept of herself.
This revelation is not uncommon for married women in their forties. But Gilbert has a restless spirit and reasons that by traveling to various countries she will find what she’s looking for, which she has not yet defined.
As a writer, Gilbert has been successful and is financially independent. Her husband is devastated by her request for a divorce. He really thought she was happy, but for too long she had faked her contentment. Of course, she had not been honest with herself, which caused her husband to live under a delusion for too long.
At first Stephen refuses to sign the divorce papers and thinks his wife is going through a depression. In her mind, Gilbert is adamant about being free to be her own person without having to compromise for her husband.
And so, the movie becomes a quasi-travelogue featuring Gilbert traveling to Italy to experience the tastes and smells of Italian culture. There she learns to relax and not worry about her weight. She savors the pasta and pizza with gusto. She also makes friends with another woman on the same journey.
Gilbert learns that Italians love life and food with great passion and have learned the art of doing nothing. Italy has many lessons for Gilbert who savors every minute of her stay there. But, she wants to move on to India to live at an ashram to find inner-peace.
India is a shock to Gilbert with its blatant in-your-face heat, poverty, air pollution, and stench. At the ashram, she learns humility of manual labor and the peace of meditation. There she meets a middle aged Texas man, Richard who is there trying to forgive himself from his past of alcoholism and abusing his family.
Richard is played by veteran actor Richard Jenkins (“Six Feet Under”) whose interaction with Roberts’ Gilbert is an important highlight of the movie. Funny, he calls her “Groceries” because she never stops eating.
Finally, Roberts ends up in Bali, where she buys a house and meets Filipe (Javier Bardem) which changes the direction of her journey 180 degrees.
Clearly, Roberts identified with her character and her performance is a passionate portrayal of Gilbert’s journey of self discovery. Recently, Roberts and her husband joined a Hindu religious center. So, during the shoot, Roberts’ consciousness fused with Gilbert’s real life quest and Roberts herself shared many of her revelations.
This is a special movie that goes deep into the Zen of self discovery. It was a joy to watch and is food for thought as one leaves the theater. We need more films like.
Eat Pray Love movie review
by Rick Grant