Such is the task of enjoying Elizabeth Gilbert’s spiritual memoir Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia. In Eat, Pray, Love, Gilbert recounts her one-year voyage of self-discovery. Gilbert had consecutive four-month visits to Italy, India, and Indonesia – or, as Gilbert astutely (and ominously) dubs, “the three I’s.” While regaling us with her newfound path to enlightenment, Gilbert basically takes a cue from Malibu Stacy and advises us to just forget all our troubles with a nice big bowl of strawberry ice cream – sorry, gelato.
Gilbert embarks on this journey following a dark period in her life. During that time, Gilbert extricated herself from a failed marriage and then threw herself into a one-year puppy-love relationship that also ended terribly. Gilbert describes the moment in which she decided to take control of her life as a brief epiphany during a late night sob session on the bathroom floor. Gilbert writes that she heard the voice of God, which she describes as the sound of her own voice, and it gave her the strength to pick herself up and get herself back together by feeding her passion for travel.
After four months in Italy, Gilbert flies to India and takes up residence in an Ashram where she participates in extensive yoga and meditation sessions. At the Ashram, Gilbert has an amicable relationship with a boorish Texan named Richard. Richard, along with the other yogis, helps Gilbert reach new heights of acceptance, relaxation, and clarity.
Four months later, Gilbert goes to Bali, Indonesia. In Bali, she works with an elderly medicine man who, during Gilbert's previous trip to Bali, had foretold of her breakdown and subsequent recovery. Gilbert also makes friends with a poor Balinese single mother and her children, and she reluctantly makes another attempt at romance with a charming Brazilian man named Felipe
During her travels, Gilbert undergoes a radical transformation and she emerges a spiritually enlightened woman who is at peace with herself and the world. Unfortunately, all the wonderful qualities of Eat, Pray, Love are frequently undermined by Gilbert’s unrelenting whininess and her over-inflated ego. From the first pages of her memoir, Gilbert blathers on about how she’s so hard done by. Gilbert is especially vehement when mentioning her ex-husband (but to her credit, it sounds like they had a nasty divorce); furthermore, aside from noting that he wanted children and she did not, she openly glosses over her reasons for leaving him, so her continual remarks about how much he suffocated her often sound more mean-spirited than meaningful. It’s equally disparaging how Gilbert shows little remorse for leaving her marriage, but she falls to pieces when her rebound relationship fails. Additionally, it is quite unflattering and problematic how Gilbert unabashedly describes herself as a worldly person, yet she cries over boy problems like a thirteen-year-old girl. Even more frustrating is Gilbert’s ego. When Gilbert isn’t crying about losing David, her one-year boy toy, she’s banging her own drum. Even when Gilbert shares the lessons of her spirituality, she often undermines it by delivering it in a condescending I am holier than thou didacticism.
Eat. Pray, Love is directed by Ryan Murphy, who nearly butchered the film adaptation of Augusten Burroughs’ scathingly funny memoir Running With Scissors. Murphy, however, has had considerable success as the creator of Glee, so hopefully he will imbibe Eat, Pray, Love with the necessary, er, glee to complement Gilbert’s journey. The gorgeous scenery of Gilbert’s travels will be even prettier through the lens of cinematographer Robert Richardson (Inglourious Basterds), and a score by Dario Marianelli (Atonement) and new songs by Eddie Vedder (Into the Wild) should make for a lively soundtrack.
Eat, Pray, Love opens in wide release on August 13th.