Friday, September 3, 2010

movie wars

Okay, so. It's no secret that I love movies. And I'm not terribly discriminatory, because I believe that different kinds of movies fulfill me in different ways. Just as I will sometimes choose Sour Patch Kids over decadent dark chocolate, so too will I occasionally choose a fun, frilly chick flick over an oscar-worthy drama. Intro over. The point is, in the past week, K and I have seen two films. One frightfully gag-tastic, terrible enough for tears chick flick, and one brilliant, warm and decadent-as-dark-chocolate dramedy.

I won't lie. I'd been dying to see Eat, Pray, Love since the very moment whispers of its making hit the web-waves. I loved the book because it was so charming, so accessible and so inspirational at a time in my life when I was floating, aimless, and on a similar quest for spiritual and corporeal awareness. I wanted to feel full, to experience everything, from food to friendship to creativity, to absolute capacity. In short, I was searching for my personal Absolute, and the book, though written (I thought) much like a extended magazine editorial, hit on all of the appropriate pressure points. That said, the movie was a colossal anticlimax. Worse, it was like plummeting 133 ft (1 ft/min) to the death of my hope for the integrity of cinematic adaptation.

EAT: So she ate a whole pizza? Wow, really? I could do that any day of the week. She ate a big bowl of spaghetti? Shocker. It all just seemed so trite, and the whole experience in Italy failed to come across as rich or rewarding in any way. It was as if we were presented with an elaborate five-course dinner that we had to finish in half an hour, which is exactly the opposite of what the Eating segment set out to be. For a film that really captures the Italian spirit that Eat, Pray, Love totally failed to deliver, see Stealing Beauty.

PRAY: I remember enjoying this section of the book, but the film cheapened the experience of a spiritual retreat beyond recognition. It was so incredibly bourgeois and stank of superficiality from start to finish. When Ms. Gilbert arrives in India, she looks horrified and terror-stricken as her taxicab swerves through the city streets and exhales only when she is dropped at the Ashram, which appears to be nothing more than a high-class hotel where people occasionally pretend to meditate in an (air-conditioned!) room. She does wash the floor once, but otherwise it's a lot of sitting around and eating more than her fair share of food. Sounds a whole lot like my vacation. The film made the Ashram look like such a tourist trap, I lost all respect for film-Elizabeth.

LOVE: This was the only part of the film that had any endearing qualities, probably because Javier Bardem is so charming and the film wasn't aiming (at this point, it was quite clear) for anything higher than an airy romantic romp. I forgive Mr. Bardem for playing this role because he probably didn't read the rest of the script. I do not forgive Julia Roberts. It was just so obvious (in the film) that Ms. Gilbert wasn't cut out for living with herself for very long. Despite one random hissy-fit where she put her foot down about going on a romantic weekend away (which wasn't even remotely understandable), she fell very easily into the love-trap. Which is fine, because that's what people do. It was the fact that she felt bad about it that made everything else seem so forced. Like she didn't really get as much out of the eating and praying as she should have, if her hold on her selfhood was still so fragile. And she photocopied all of those old journals that Nyomo asked her to transcribe--if you were given the opportunity to develop a relationship with documents of that sort, wouldn't you jump at the chance? That was madness to me.

K had a little outburst while leaving the theatre. And he sat patiently through Sex and the City 2, so that's saying something. Word to the wise: do not bring your boyfriend to this movie. Actually, save yourself the trouble--don't go see this movie, period. Instead, you should all go out and see Get Low.

While Eat, Pray, Love attempted to cover too much ground in too little time and ended up merely scraping the surface of what once was a fairly meaningful personal journey, Get Low has a very simple premise (a crotchety old hermit, Felix Bush, emerges from his forty-year self-exile with a wad of cash and a request for a living funeral), which allows for surprising tenderness and introspection. It's a minor mystery with a major impact, and the strength of the film lies in what is withheld. In one scene, Sissy Spacek's character (once the old hermit's lover) allegorizes the man as a cave that keeps getting deeper and deeper, seemingly without end. As the film goes on, it is as if Felix is surfacing from this bottomless cave, exposing more of himself ("pruning" his beard and wild hair, allowing strangers into his home, visiting old friends and making new ones), until finally all is revealed. I don't want to give too much away here, because the plot hasn't already been revealed in two forms of well-publicized media, but it was a treat. It was laugh-out-loud funny, affectively heartwarming, and devastatingly sad. The decadent dark chocolate always satisfies.


  1. I have to be frank here Caitlin, I couldn't get through the book EPL. I thought Gilbert's spiritualism was very self serving and even though we all have difficult times in our life, I grew tired of hearing about her whole life falling apart all of the time with no real basis for why it was so bad (maybe I'm just too nosy, but I wanted to know why she was divorced and such a mess).I gave up before the Pray section actually. Therefore I walked into the movie with very low expectations and enjoyed it more than I expected to. However I can understand how someone who was really impacted by the book could find the film a trite and offensive adaptation. I agree, the pray section of the film was very haphazard and put the parts where Gilbert did try to connect with her spiritual side on the back burner so we could watch Julia Robert's stuff her face even more haha. The eat section wasn't as film-contrived, but I do agree the book didn't make it seem all about scarfing down slices of pizza, but also the struggle for Gilbert to just be herself. The movie only had that one lingerie scene of self discovery and the rest is food porn. Overall, film Gilbert is much more selfish and whiny than I book one was.

  2. you nailed what I disliked so much about Eat Pray Love (the movie). Book was very good.