FILM: Eat, Love and Pray It’s Not a Disaster
Lindy West writes for The Stranger, an alternative newsweekly in Seattle, US, where she is film editor. Here’s her take on Eat Pray Love, published in a recent edition of the newspaper.
Eat, Pray, Love opened almost a month ago over here, but I avoided seeing it until yesterday, even though seeing it is literally my job. Denial is powerful. I’m just so bored of ladies and their emotions doing stuff – and, worse, the assumption that those three elements alone (ladies, emotions, stuff) are enough to constitute entertainment for other ladies. But my desire to never, ever watch Julia Roberts slurp erotic spaghetti and chant peacefully in Sanskrit was overruled by my desire to not get fired. Fine. To the cinema I went.
Here is what Eat Pray Love is about: Julia Roberts (she cannot be anything but Julia Roberts) is a successful travel writer with a house, a million bucks and a handsome husband. Naturally, she is also paralysed by abject sorrow: “I had actively participated in every moment of the creation of this life. So why didn’t I see myself in any of it?” She dumps the spouse and embarks on a year-long tripartite journey to find her stupid, privileged self.
First up is “eat,” which takes place in Rome. There are only three kinds of people in Rome: Old Italian ladies stuffed with wisdom like wrinkly brown manicottis, sexy young ladies who do nothing but eat figs sensually with a knife and fork and really, really hot dudes. Opera music plays while Julia Roberts shovels spaghetti into her orgasm face. Julia Roberts buys “big lady jeans” so she can fit more pizza in there.
“Let me teach you a word,” says Julia Roberts to her really, really hot Italian tutor. She holds up a carafe of wine. “Therapist.” Har har.
The second stop is “pray,” in which Julia Roberts travels to très-exotic India to live at an ashram and complain a bunch. While there, she gets mosquito bites and learns about the horror of arranged marriage. She ultimately concludes that she needs to “forgive herself” – for what I have no idea. She has literally done nothing but go on vacation and eat spaghetti. I cannot figure out what is so wrong with this woman’s life.
The third and final chapter is “love,” which brings Julia Roberts to the even more exotic shores of Bali. In Bali, she becomes best friends with a wacky, toothless medicine man, meditates some more, gets a bladder infection and meets her dream man – a fitting finale to a movie all about how you don’t need a husband to be happy as long as you have spaghetti. (Pro tip: It turns out you do!) At one point, Javier Bardem runs her over with his car. That part was okay.
Now, I am not opposed to women “finding” themselves. I am not anti-spaghetti. Ladies, feel free to continue appreciating the little things in life and savouring the moment and dreaming of cuddles with Javier Bardem (I love him, too).
And you know what? Objectively, Eat Pray Love isn’t even that bad as cotton-candy chick flicks go.
But the unexamined privilege, the idealisation and making exotic of all places east, the canned spirituality, the sensual spaghetti – it’s all so focus-group-tested and Oprah-approved and self-perpetuating and embarrassing that I just want to go and hide in an ashram somewhere and suck on figs forever.Filed under: Arts & Entertainment