Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sorry, what was that all about?

Because Chrissy and I rocked up at Doncaster SC to catch a movie on a Mon night, and then realised the selection there was miserly, we had to settle for a title which wasn't scary, gory or simply crappy. We decided to take our chances on Eat, Pray, Love. I had wanted to see The Last Airbender (because I really like CG action scenes like that), or Legend of the Guardians (fluffy owls galore!), but that would have to wait for another time.

I must say, I did have some expectations from the movie. Y'know, it has been such a sensation and I think most people (or ladies) would have heard of it by now. The premise might resonate with some of them out there - stuck in a marriage which had fizzled out, not sure what their lives are all about, and wanting all that life and energy back which they lost somehow along the way. So, what Ms Gilbert did was to go through a difficult divorce in which she lost all her money (because she was so desperate to make her ex-husband sign the papers that she negotiated taking nothing from the divorce settlement and giving him all her monies/ properties/ retirement accounts etc). She had been in an affair, and after the divorce, she went into another relationship with a young struggling theatre actor (which ended up nowhere). So, she decided to select 3 countries, packed up and left New York. The ex-husband wanted her back badly, but in the end, he relented according to her wishes.

Let's be honest, shall we? If this had been written by a man, the backlash would have been tsunamical (I made that word up). A man who had an affair, decided to break the marriage off, flew away to Europe and Asia and settled down in Bali with his new love. That doesn't resonate like a life-changing moment, it just sounds like a clandestine affair in which a man uses the "I want to find my life back" notion as a major excuse to bow out of anything responsible, leaving everything behind.

But I didn't read the book, so I guess a lot of details might be missing. Perhaps Ms Gilbert did try to make the marriage work and it still failed. And along the way, she experienced spirituality in India, ate like a buffoon in Italy (which is lost on most of us because it's not like we are all eating grass usually), and then fell in love with a really nice man in Bali. Btw, there is a continuation of the love story as her new man lives with her in the States now, in her book titled Committed. They sworn complete fidelity to each other, with no marriage vows ever (because they were both divorcees and skeptics of marriage), but an immigration hiccup one day made them rethink of how they could continue their relationship as her new man was refused entry into the States.

Unless of course, they were legally married.

I am taking a shot in the dark here, but the movie probably did no justice to the book. There was no real pain portrayed in the marriage and one night, the woman just fell to her knees and prayed to God with tears, asking what she should do. And then God didn't respond, so she went back to bed despondent. All these within 15 mins of the movie. I was left wondering, "So... what was she on about? What was wrong with the marriage? Because her husband was a person who couldn't make up his mind on what he wanted to do in his career or something? And then she was disappointed because she confessed she had never spoken to God, and then she prayed something would happen because she decided to kneel down one night and pray?"

Don't get me wrong. God can make lightning strike a tree at first instance, and certainly a skeptic's prayer is more powerful than a lukewarm believer's if God wanted it to be so. I just didn't see her heart in that prayer. What was she asking for? What was she crying about? 15 minutes into the show, and it wasn't enough to see what she was miserable about. She was already pulling a long face  standing beside her husband at a function when the movie started rolling.

Then she went into a relationship with a young actor (cougar alert!) who was playing out a script which she wrote (I am assuming here, since it was mentioned that she was a writer). They made eyes at each other throughout the play. Then in the second shot, she had moved in, they had lots of sex, and then 15 mins into the movie, she was miserable and apparently they had quarreled a lot etc. I was left in the dark again about what they were up against. There were no shots on what they argued about, and what she wanted him to do or give to her. She certainly didn't offer him anything really.

Anyway, she decided to go to Italy for good food. Yes, her best friend ate salad for lunch, so she chided her by saying how miserable they had become. Oh, they had lost the appetite for life!  Off she flew then. I loved this bit because the scenery shots in Italy were beautiful.

But there were moments when she was quietly upset. She stayed alone, she hung out with people who were happy couples (always a mistake when you just got out from a relationship) and at the end of the day, she piled on some weight and laughed so much about it. She encouraged a friend to eat that pizza with her because she was tired of having to be so uptight about her naked body. "Men would never walk away from a naked woman, so big deal about some extra kilos!" 

Sure, I'm ok with that whole notion of positive body image. Be happy with yours, don't scrimp to the point where you become unhappy. So, was that why she travelled to Italy for? To rediscover her tastebuds? Perhaps eating a lot in another country makes it easier to justify all those extra weight? She did become happier, but still, those moments of loneliness would jar into the movie occasionally. I still don't know if she learnt anything.

Then it was India. All of a sudden, the screen was filled with loud noises, cows, honking, people, dirt and stuffs. She checked into a guru's temple whom her actor ex-boyfriend had introduced her to, and she did some legwork at the temple (cleaning the floors etc) as part of her stay there. She met a 17 yr old local who was there because she was a follower, but she was miserable as she was in the midst of being married off to another 17 yr old by arrangement.

OK, so she met an elder Caucasian whilst staying there. He called her "Groceries" because of the amount of food she ate (remember her lesson in Italy?). They didn't get along well because he was immediately clashing swords with her from the moment they met. To me, I guess they were trying to portray him as one of those who were there for a long time, and didn't like those 'hippy Caucasians' who thought it was cool to come along to an impoverished country seeking alternative healing. I might be off the mark, who knows? It was so random. They attended that 17 yr old girl's wedding where she and the bride had a quiet moment. She told her, "I had been praying to the guru for you, that you would become very happy with your husband. You will be." And the bride looked up at her and said, "I will believe in that, and I will gain happiness." Then, that was the end of the scene.

That was befuddling. She had been a little angsty because witnessing a marriage reminded her of her own. Then she had a short chat with her ex-husband (illusionary) where they were dancing during their wedding, and nothing much was exchanged. I was like, "Huh? Why is she thinking about this?" And why was she so certain that little girl would gain happiness in her wedding? I don't get it.

Anyway, the elder Caucasian and her bonded a bit because he opened up to her about his past, and he pleaded with her to stay in India until she could forgive herself. In the movie, she didn't even talk to him about anything except that she was a divorcee.

So, what was he asking to forgive herself for? Unlike her, he was an alcoholic and he almost ran over his 8 yr old son in the driveway as he was drunk behind the wheel. His wife witnessed everything, and took their children away with her. So, he came to this temple and meditated lots. He was perhaps trying to forgive himself because his 8 yr old son was now 18, and he missed out on his growing up phase. OK, that bit I can understand. So, was she supposed to forgive herself for marrying the wrong guy? That man eventually must have forgiven himself because he was shown leaving India and going back to Texas, with her bidding him farewell tearfully. I don't know, it wasn't mentioned clearly.

Anyway, at first she had trouble meditating. She thought of a million other things in her mind and I could understand that too. Meditation is difficult. You are always distracted. So, from praying, she's trying meditation and she succeeds in the movie. You see her in zen-like mode by the time she travels to Bali where she nails the technique. She left India (I don't know whether she forgave herself because it wasn't mentioned) and the next thing on the screen was the rice paddies in Bali. "Oh, we're in Bali now." I recalled thinking in my head.

Then she went back to this medicine man called Katuk, who prophesied that she would be back to see him, penniless, but having gained a lot more. So indeed, his prophecy rang true. She remembered him as she was planning her trip, and went to see him. She became his pseudo-disciple, writing out his spells for him as they were falling away to bits, and she travelled around Bali enjoying the sights and sounds. Then she was invited to one of the summer beach parties, and she was flirting away with a young deejay, but pulled out at the end when he invited her to swim naked in the beach. "This is Bali! Enjoy!" Then she bumped into a man who had earlier almost ran her down on her bicycle because he was distracted by the radio. That man became a self-appointed travel guide for her, and they enjoyed each other's company, subsequently becoming her new love. She got to meet his adult son, who was egging his father to sleep with her.

After a few days, weeks, or months later (I don't know, because no time was mentioned), the man invited her to his yacht in which he wanted to bring her to 'a place for themselves', since he belonged to Bali and she in New York. I think he was referring to an island. She just went ballistic and cried and wept, subsequently running away from him, leaving him heartbroken because he had told her that he was willing to open his heart again (his wife left him). I was completely confused at this stage because she literally said nothing much that justified her reaction. It was "I can't, I don't want to, I can't do this again." So, I had to pin it down to a fear of commitment. She didn't mention anything about being heartbroken again, but in the beginning, she wasn't betrayed anyway. She just fell out of her love with ex-husband. So, I don't know actually.

Then she took some time by herself, and talked to the medicine man who advised her that the balance of life also involved being unbalanced by the force of love. And she went back to see that man, who embraced her happily. Parting shot: they were kissing and making out in the speedboat towards... an island, I think.

The only highlight for me: she got to know this lady with her child in Bali, who was the equivalent of a pharmacist. She dispensed medicine and helped her with her leg wound as she got knocked down by that car earlier. This lady was abused by her husband and so she left with her young girl. She decided to rally all her friends together (back in NY, in Italy and that man who was now back in Texas) and they all pitched in money for her cause. In the end, she got enough to help build an amazing house for mother and child. Now, that was amazing and I was positively inspired by her.

I didn't make any sense of the movie because on hindsight, the movie was so ambiguous in its story-telling, direction and dialogue. It just made me feel as if Ms Gilbert was making a BIG deal out of nothing. In comparison to the people she met with some serious problems and healing to do, I just don't know what she was anguished about. Was that what her whole motto was? Going around to impoverished countries and realising that she was a privileged white woman who should have known better? And to cultivate an appetite for eating in Italy?

Then the ending shots involved her ex-husband happily married again with a baby, and her ex-actor boyfriend getting recognition at a play. Everyone found their own happiness.

I know, I know. From a bird's eye view, I understand what she's trying to do. If I eat like a shrimp, I do feel miserable. I feel happy when I had amazingly good food. I am delighted when my spirituality is encompassing. I am happy when I enjoy the love from God, family and peers. But I don't know what her story and her search attempts were all about. It just baffles me, and I shall blame it on the movie. But will I read her book then? No, I do have other books which require my attention for now, and unless I receive it as a gift (please don't do this to me), I'm not that inspired to reach for it.

There you go, my 2 cents worth of a movie review. I'm sorry for the funny flow of the review, but that was all I could work on from the movie plot.

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