“Eat Pray Love”: Boring; Boring; an Elephant With Mange

Poor Dumbo. And the elephant isn’t looking all that great, either.

 Here are the five main reasons for which I found the movie Eat Pray Love unbelievably unwatchable:

1. The Julia Roberts character is so shallow you couldn’t drown a cat in it. First Liz (Julia Roberts) divorces her husband (Billy Crudup), for virtually no reason beyond that he’s a little uncomfortable holding babies and hasn’t yet found his professional calling. (Though, given how and where the couple live, they’re clearly crazy rich. So, you know.) Liz next initiates a relationship with a vapid boy-toy (James Franco), fourteen-years her junior. For no apparent reason she then breaks up with him in order to embark on her Body Functions Across the World tour. And that’s the reason she spends the rest of the movie swampy-eyed and wistfully gazing into the middle distance while, via the movie’s voice-over, speaking her own special language of Bumper Stickers by Yoda.

2. All the side characters were clearly hired from Hackneyed Hollywood Stereotypes, Inc. The soulful, wise black female friend. The soulful, handsome Italian paramour (that we’re given to understand wants Elizabeth—and she him—before he suddenly and inexplicably falls for the new best friend Liz has made in Italy). The soulful old Italian mama. The soulful, toothless old Asian man. The soulful, handsome Brazilian man who cooks, reads, loves, laughs, lounges and lives in a huge, richly appointed house on the beach. It’s like central casting had a clearance sale.

3. Not enough India. I’d bet my house that after having shot the lavish, Rome-encompassing first third of this film, its producers realized that they were vastly over-budget. Because the second third of the movie takes place in India, and all of it takes place inside a run-down ashram. That’s it. That’s all of India that we see—except for this one part, where there’s an elephant. And clearly by then things had gotten so bad, budget-wise, that the only elephant the producers could afford was a skinny, geriatric one—with mange. So sad.

4. It’s excruciatingly boring to watch someone meditate. The one great thing about this movie is that it once and for all answers the age-old question: Once you’ve moved the camera in a big sweeping circle around a person sitting perfectly still meditating, what else can be done to render that moment interesting? The answer is … move the camera in a circle going the other way! And if you then simply hold the camera on the meditating person, you will, through the wondrous magic of cinema, put your audience in a special trance all of their own. One where they’re certain to end up snoring like buzz saws.

5. They took the commas out of the title. The title of the Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling book is Eat, Pray, Love. Why’d the people who made this movie ditch the commas in the title? We’ll never know. But my guess is that they were afraid that the audience they were hoping to reach with this movie would only be confused by commas.

Liz eats very little in India or Bali, but in Italy eats tons. She prays once at her home in New York, not at all in Italy, and meditates a lot in both India and Bali. She loves a little in Italy, not at all in India, and a lot with the Mr. Moony Eyes in Bali.

Annnnd now you’ve seen the whole movie. You’re welcome.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • Diana A.

    Did you read the book? I'm not saying that the book is good (I read an excerpt in O Magazine) but it sounds like the book is better than the movie–which is not unusual.

    • Ace

      "I'd rather read the worst novel ever written, than sit through the best movie ever made."

  • Freda

    A very insightful analysis which guarantees that, although I didn't want to see it before, I will surely NEVER see it now.

    I am so deathly sick of cliched Hollywood movies. And as I wrote in your Facebook page:

    I had actually assumed it wouldn't be any good, even though I love Julia Roberts. I think it's because I've never known Hollywood to get a religious experience right.

    I know many people who saw "The Passion of the Christ" who raved about it… but I had no desire to see it. Anyway, perhaps that properly conveyed torture, as other films have properly portrayed torture, but I'm talking about an individual's religious experience and not a blow-by-blow analysis.

    • http://megaloi.blogspot.com Redlefty

      Shawshank Redemption, Bourne Identity and Princess Bride are three possible examples from very different genres.

      Films as a medium have a limited utility and can’t be used to make the same kind of detailed, layered points that a book can accomodate. When it’s done right, though, and the film focuses in on the key things the director wants it to do, it can work very well.

      • Clutz

        Princess Bride – excellent choice, sir! Although it wasn’t necessarily the best acted, directed, or filmed work I’ve ever seen, I thought “Knowing” with Nicholas Cage portrayed a genuine spiritual experience. I recommended to many people, and many people tell me they couldn’t finish watching it (boring?). Thus, I’m only one of two people I’ve encountered who hold this opinion, so feel free to disagree, criticize, or ridicule accordingly. :)

  • berkshire

    I read the book, and really liked it.

    I haven't seen the movie, and after everything I'm hearing about it, I probably won't see it.

    Which makes me ask you, John, and your readers, can anyone tell me of a movie–any movie–based on a book, that actually did justice to, or exceeded the quality of the book? I'm sure there must be a few. . . . right?

    I can recall once saying about a movie "it was actually better than the book", but at the moment I can't even remember which movie it was (which leads me to believe that the book must have been really bad, so the movie didn't have to work very hard to be merely OK).

    Just curious. . . . and always happy to get recommendations for good films or books.

    • denver

      I thought The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons were excellent adaptations to film.

      The first Harry Potter movie was pretty much blow-by-blow the book in visual form. I understand people kvetch about the later ones for cutting things out for time, but I saw the first movie and THEN read the book and it was like reading a screenplay. In fact I was bored with it because it was so exactly the same.

      Jurassic Park the movie I think was better than Jurassic Park the book. I tried to read the book, and never got past the boring beginning part talking about lizards that was about 1/2 of the book (everyone kept telling me "keep going! It gets interesting later!!" But I just couldn't take it anymore!).

      And finally, To Kill a Mockingbird – the old black and white version (in case there's a newer one), and Of Mice and Men starring the guy that played the lieutenant in Forrest Gump (I don't know most actors' names, sorry)… both excellent adaptations.

      IMO, anyway. :)

      • melissa

        You've listed some of my favorites here. However, I loved both the book and the movie version of Jurassic Park. ( I loved the concept of extracting the dino DNA from insects trapped in amber – I thought the book was great!) However, I thought the movie version of The DaVinci Code was weak on so many levels – didn't come even marginally close to the book for me. I felt the same with Angels and Demons. However, I am one of those annoying people who complain when the film deviates too much from the book. I read all the Harry Potter books before seeing the movies and I have to say I really loved the movies just as much as the books. I will be sad to see it end. Some of my favorite movie adaptions have been from Stephen King novels or short stories. (Quite a few duds in there as well, though!) Stand By Me, The Green Mile, The Shining… all great. Pet Sematary, Thinner, and a few others, not so much.

    • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

      Off the top of my head, Jaws and Star Wars.

      • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

        The Shining.

    • berkshire

      OK, in response to my own post here a few days ago, I have to say that I recently saw “Julie and Julia” and thought it was very enjoyable–especially that parts about Julia Child’s life, and the cinematography.

      I read the book “Julie and Julia” over the last two days, and actually got very close to the end of it, but just couldn’t finish it. One of the most painful reads ever–due to a variety of things, including the abrasiveness and just plain miserable nature of the author, her unrelenting use of profanity (beyond what might be useful for effect), her apparently blissful lack of awareness that she has a problem with alcohol, her lack of empathy, constant pop-cultural references and overall really, really, bad writing. I mean, just awful.

      See the movie, avoid the book.

      Never thought I’d say that.

      Oh, except about Davinci Code. Some of the worst writing in the service of an intriguing story ever, IMHO.

    • http://mysteryshrink.com Barbara DeShong

      Movie better than the book–Terms of Endearment. Larry McMurtry’s book dragged. Shirley McLaine and Jack Nicholson made it all better.

      On E,P, L..I have a tough time comiserating with the angst of a wealthy, beautiful white New Yorker who isn’t “fulfilled.”

    • leslie

      I never read the book The Last Temptation of Christ, because one of my friends swore the movie was so much better. (I loved the movie.)

    • Barbarella22

      GONE WITH THE WIND….The Godfather….The Color Purple….Star Wars….Dances With Wolves…Doctor Zhivago…Frankenstein…..The Grapes of Wrath…. to name a few.

      Of course most of the above were blockbusters and expensive to produce. But the main problem with ‘movies’ today is people want to be ‘movie stars’ , not actors. Julia Roberts in my opinion is not a great actress, but a great movie star. No one emulates Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Vivian Leigh, Katherine Hepburn, Irene Dunn, Charlie Chaplin, James Stewart, Spencer Tracy, Paul Newman, Peter O’Toole, James Cagney, Bogart, etc..

    • eems

      I’d say the Lord of the Rings trilogy did justice to the books.

  • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

    Here is Lewis Black's review:
    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-august-18-2

    or

    The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon – Thurs 11p / 10c<td style='padding:2px 1px 0px 5px;' colspan='2'Back in Black – Eat Pray Love<a> <a href="http://www.thedailyshow.comhttp://www.thedailyshow.com<a href=”http://www.thedailyshow.com/full-episodes/” target=”_blank”>Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor<a href='http://www.thedailyshow.com/videos/tag/Tea+Party&#039; rel="nofollow">Tea Party

    • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

      It looks like the embedded video isn’t supported. Use the first link.

  • http://emphaticasterisk.com Lindsey

    As a friend of mine so aptly said, "every time I hear more about Eat, Pray, Love it makes me want to Gag, Spit, Stab-myself-in-my-eye-with-a-spoon. The Subtitle should be 'entitled rich white woman blows thousands of dollars so people from other cultures can tell her how to live with her American guilt.'"

    Heh.

    • http://blueberrypancakesfordinner.wordpress.com blueberrypancakesfor

      "entitled rich white woman blows thousands of dollars so people from other cultures can tell her how to live with her American guilt.’”

      this is what i thought about the book! i just could not get though it…

      i did however love "Three Cups of Tea" "The Faith Club" and "Beautiful Boy"

    • Ace

      Hahaha, sounds about right. Actually that's a pretty good summation of a lot of Hollywood….

    • Gander1440

      I guess you missed the part where she earned her living as a writer, had no kids and and stored her meager possessions in a storage unit. Sour grapes?

  • AboundingJoy

    The book was one of the best that I've read all year, hands down. When I saw the movie trailer, I knew immediately that Hollywood had ruined it on a zillion levels – the least of which is the elephant. I refuse to see the movie.

  • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com Ric Booth

    Thanks for this review, John

    I've just moved this movie from its woefully low spot on my "might-see-someday" list to a prominent spot on my "must-avoid-at-all-costs" list.

    And, it is all your fault.

  • http://christineoh.blogspot.com Christine

    hahaha. this. was. awesome. more movie critiques please!

  • http://www.aviewfromtheedge.net/blog Nicole

    “3. Not enough India.”

    You know why? Because it’s dirty, and many people you see on the street in India are living in abject poverty. They’re dirty and many have leprosy. It can be breathtakingly beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. And, unfortunately, that kind of truth just doesn’t appeal to the demographic this movie was made for.

    I don’t mean to sound bitter, but I think the whole concept of this book and movie is total BS. And I find Julia Roberts arrogant and irritating.

    • http://blueberrypancakesfordinner.wordpress.com blueberrypancakesfor

      this

  • http://melindasmusings.com Melinda

    Love the review. You should do more movie reviews, I would rather read them than watch the movies!

  • http://Sisterfriends-together.org Anita

    GASP.

    Dialing 1-800-OOO-PRAH now. You are gonna be in such big trouble.

  • http://www.lcweekly.com MargaretEvans

    While many have panned this movie, and for plenty of different reasons, they all seem to agree on one thing: It is inappropriate – and downright offensive – for an attractive, successful white woman to feel miserable empty and lost. Whatever. I felt Liz Gilbert's pain and I empathize. Sorry you good Christian folk can't do the same.

    • Kim

      Ms. Evans, that's not my position at all. Being white, raised wealthy and supported in Connecticut isn't a guarantee to happiness in life…not at all. Any race of woman could have written this book and it would be AS distasteful to me as her account is. It is not inappropriate for an attractive, successful white woman to feel miserable, empty or lost. What IS offensive is an attractive, successful white woman who feels miserable, empty and lost – detailing her "plight" of boredom and self-centeredness in the name of all that is holy in publishing, using a big fat book advance to write out her "epiphany of self discovery", and expecting us all to feel relieved once her self-esteem was restored. Thank you Oprah…

      If you're miserable, empty and lost, for God's sake get some counselling, call a friend, explore yourself, and be honest to yourself and those surrounding you without decimating the lives of those who support you. Have some maturity, just like the rest of us.

      • berkshire

        I think people are projecting a lot of stuff onto Gilbert that just isn’t there. I think she was telling a story–and I thought she told it well, and with a great deal of self-deprecating humor. I don’t think she was “expecting [anyone] to feel relieved about her restored self-esteem”. I also don’t see her divorce in the same light as a lot of other people–but I read the book some years ago when it first came out, so maybe there’s something I’m forgetting about the circumstances of her marriage she described. I’m recalling someone who lived out other people’s expectations for her life, including that marriage, which was apparently the wrong way to go. But again, I’d have to revisit the book.

        But who are we we to tell Gilbert, or anyone for that matter, how she should approach what she perceives to be the problems in her life? Or to judge the validity of those problems? Personally, I think travel can be a really eye-opening experience, and can shake people out of their comfort zones. If she can afford to do it, then why the heck not? She’s the only proper judge of whether or not it was the right thing to do, and whether she succeeded in her aim–which I’m not cynical enough to believe was solely to publish a book. But even if it was, kudos. Who wouldn’t love a paid-four year of travel? I know I’d sign up.

        Perhaps a lot of people are just kicking themselves that they didn’t think of it first.

        That said, after all I’ve heard and read, I have no plans to see the movie. Sounds awful.

        And just for the record, since some folks seem to be forgetting this bit of the obvious: being a white woman is not a guarantee of an easy life. Sorry to burst that bubble.

        • berkshire

          That’s “paid for”.

        • Jennifer

          @ berkshire

          But who are we we to tell Gilbert, or anyone for that matter, how she should approach what she perceives to be the problems in her life? Or to judge the validity of those problems? Personally, I think travel can be a really eye-opening experience, and can shake people out of their comfort zones. If she can afford to do it, then why the heck not? She’s the only proper judge of whether or not it was the right thing to do, and whether she succeeded in her aim–which I’m not cynical enough to believe was solely to publish a book. But even if it was, kudos. Who wouldn’t love a paid-four year of travel?

          Well said!!!!

          And just for the record, since some folks seem to be forgetting this bit of the obvious: being a white woman is not a guarantee of an easy life. Sorry to burst that bubble.

          Brilliant!!! More true than words can say!

      • Germaine

        We all have lessons to learn in our time on this earth. How fortunate the character, with the gifts she was given, chose to make and become the change she wanted to see in the world. Many never get there regardless of race, gender or socioeconomic level. That’s that point so many of you are missing.

    • Jheartsong

      Exactly. It seems that many of the good Christian folk conveniently forget ” judge not lest ye be judged”.

  • melissa

    Comment #1 says it all. I tried to like her, (Julia’s character), I WANTED to like her. By movie’s end, I could’ve cared less. I knew I should’ve gone to see “Inception”.

  • http://luwandi.wordpress.com Beth Luwandi

    Read the book first of course. Much better, of course. And still, a very self-centered memoir though the genre is self-centered by definition.

    I’m fascinated by the monetary impact of such tales– Gilbert has made a killing on her books, also Committed, the ensuing story of that love affair with “Felipe.”

    what makes the masses want to read this?

    Ultimately it’s Liz’s conclusion in the end that “God dwells in [her] as [her,]” and the voice she heard while praying in New York telling her to “go back to bed” being just herself that sour it for me personally. I find it the ultimate expression of self-worship.

    • Ace

      "Ultimately it’s Liz’s conclusion in the end that “God dwells in [her] as [her,]” and the voice she heard while praying in New York telling her to “go back to bed” being just herself that sour it for me personally. I find it the ultimate expression of self-worship."

      Frankly, that is the long and short of A WHOLE LOT of people's spirituality. Most just won't come out and admit it as such, to others or often even themselves (though I do remember a kid in one of my university classes who did declare that, as the greatest influence on his own life, he was indeed his own god – at least he was honest).

  • Kim

    HAHAHAHAHA!!!

    HATED HATED HATED the book. Hated it even more because it was non-fiction. She took a book contract and travelled the world looking for enlightenment…divorcing her husband because she was bored and didn’t know what was wrong…and like John said, created every cliche’ of the bored, wealthy, entitled, self-possessed white woman she is. I’ve seen several interviews and read several transcripts of others and read several book reviews. She’s the same in each one — boring, flaky, self-involved, vapid. Yes, I may sound hostile, but you don’t sever your marriage, write everything down for the public to read, use the world as your enlightenment tool for justification, all because someone is paying you for the story.

    Oh wow…I feel very negative right now…Gilbert’s book provoked such hostility! I need to go lay down.

    :)

    • Vivian

      I agree with you 100%.

    • http://blueberrypancakesfordinner.wordpress.com blueberrypancakesfordinner

      like

    • Tim

      That's the first book my ex-wife glommed onto after telling me she wanted a divorce. I picked up a copy and browsed it. The title should have been Run Chant F#©k…but what do I know, I'm just another broken bitter spouse who draws unfair moral criticisms about the flip mindset of "quickie" divorce seekers yearning for new comestibles, new religion, and new friction.

      Cheers, Kim.

      • David

        Bitter is right. Try some counseling and and stop that flood of negative energy rushing into the universe…

    • Wendy

      AGREE!!!

  • Susan

    So glad for this info. Have been trying to get into the book, unsuccessfully. Good to know that I needn’t invest anymore time into either book or film version of EPL.

    As for movie adaptations, I must say ditto to:

    To Kill a Mocking bird

    Shawshank Redemption

    The Green Mile

    add The Color Purple to that list.

    Fave movies that I don’t think were ever books:

    The Red Violin

    Master and Commander

    Lars and the Real Girl (a lot of people will disagree on this, but it depicts, psychological healing very uniquely) — IF I WERE AN AUTHOR, I bet I’d get an article or two out of this movie [Hint, Hint]

  • Vivian

    I was gifted the book from my step daughter as a Christmas gift. She picked it up at the airport, on the way to see us. I read the book and did not care for it. I have no reason to go out to see the movie, but may rent it through netflix later.

  • http://www.sheppardministries.com Greta

    Saw the movie, never read the book…her first desperate prayer in the movie was to the real, one and only God. Had she prayed it again at the end she would have found the genuine love and peace she was seeking from the other philosophical, man-made god’s.

  • http://allegro63.blogspot.com/ Sylvie Galloway

    Well shoot. I just save 9 bucks by reading that review. My daughter and I had talked about seeing the movie. I however rarely go to movies anymore being highly disappointed time after time, by the lack of decent dialog or plot, the assumption that we want to be f-bombed every five minutes, to many "special effects" that add nothing to the story, but plenty to the "EWWW GROSS" factor, or the "can you really do that with a semi truck and walk away from the results?" I often feel like i am being patronized, or that I am supposed to think that form of humor is amusing (it often isn't, just stupid).

    The last five films I sat in a theater to watch I hated. I go to about one film a year. I will view about a half dozen on DVD, or at least parts of them. My one daughter forbids me from starting to point out plot holes out loud when watching a movie with her. That spoils the fun, I'd otherwise be having

    Now I just need to find an interesting AND entertaining book to read.

  • Don Whitt

    If I took a year off from my job, I’d have to spend it looking for work.

  • http://www.barnmaven.com Barnmaven

    Didn't read the book, won't see the movie.

    As a woman who is getting divorced for very serious, legitimate reasons, and who as a single mom with no financial support other than my job, I cannot even begin to relate to someone like Elizabeth Gilbert. Once I heard the premise of the book, all I could picture in my mind was another rich white woman whose selfish existence further reinforces her stereotype.

    I've had many amazing revelations both spiritually and emotionally since my husband and I separated a year ago. My faith has deepened and become far more central in my life. I have become a more loving and patient mother. My relationship with my children, my parents, my friends, myself and yes, even my ex, have improved tremendously. I have spend a great deal of time examining my inner self and worked very hard to change those things that prevent me from becoming the person I want to be. I didn't have to travel the world to do it; I had those moments of revelation while I was cleaning stalls or riding my horse; while I was gardening; while I was sitting at home alone on a Friday night crying because my kids were at their dads and I was lonely; while I was at church feeling thankful for a God who loves me enough to keep taking me back every time I fall. No airfare required.

    People who lead lives like that are incomprehensible to me.

    • DolphinWithoutACause

      Amen. You've captured in this short post a depth of truth here, the surface of which an entire Elizabeth Gilbert trilogy could only begin to scratch.

  • Erin

    No desire to read the book, no desire to see the movie. Gag, gag, gag.

    • Wendy

      You’re a smart lady!

  • ManimalX

    The ol’ rib bone thought the movie was awesome. On the other hand, I sat there thinking, as kids these days probably do, “Oh Em Gee. Dubya Tee Eff is this crap?”

    *sigh*

    Isn’t there some passage of Scripture that allows me to beat my wife with wet noodles when she likes AWFUL movies? Come on, I know there has to be SOMETHING!!!

  • Jennifer

    What is up with the '' rich white woman'' thing. So what if she is rich, white? Racist much people. There are more than enough rich, white women who give tons of money to charity and help people. I have a problem with her ''leaving her marriage'' for no reason. However, we all go on journeys and I can't judge her for it. I found the book boring as well as the movie. The one thing I detested is the ''guilt'' of being American. What guilt, you are fortunate you were born there. There isn't anything wrong with western society( bar a few grievances), why do people look for ''spirituality'' from people who have a caste system and abuse women and children. I forget where she was in Italy, but come on, I have been to mainland Italy and Sicily and Sardinia, who bathes like that? I love Julia but she can do better!

  • charles

    you definitely have a future in film reviews John…..

    Duncan Sheppard at the Reader should be concerned.

    Charles

  • Becky Backert

    I could have sworn this movie came out a long long time ago. Like years.

    The book was exquisite in terms of speaking a woman’s language of divorce, rebuilding, and finding herself . As far as the movie goes it was one of life’s great film disappointments. The only recent movie that ever lived up to its depths was Life of Pi. Keep reviewing. You’re dead on.

    • Wendy

      I’m sorry to disagree . . . but it was about divorce and finding another man to make her feel whole.

      Not nearly as bad as the Twilight series . . . but still.

      Come on!

  • Gretchen

    HAHAHA!! John, were we watching the same AMC channel? I just saw this the other day. Funny, when I saw the previews for it, we took our teens to “Twilight: Eclipse”. Why I remember this preview so much is that my friend said “Oh! Eat, Pray, Love! We must see that!” Her friend then said “NO! It’s all about HINDUISM!” I remember snickering at the thought that she was so close-minded that she wouldn’t see a movie that was VERY loosely based on another religion. Yup. THAT is why I remember this movie, and decided to watch it on my cable tv 4 years later…..

    However, being the sentimental woman that I am, I did relate to her a little more than you, I must say.

  • boy jesse

    Oh, how i would LOVE to see you do your own special reviews of those ghastly ‘Twilight’ movies, John!!!!!

    i am in very real pain from laughing so much at this review!!!

  • Wendy

    FINALLY! I thought I was the only one who saw this whole thing as shallow!

    I bought the book because everyone LOVED it, and I read halfway and just couldn’t bear to read any further. I found Liz to be shallow, flippant and narcissistic.

    So, I waited for the movie, not knowing how it ended, and found myself practically yelling at the TV! WHY, WHY, WHY does Hollywood feel a woman is not whole without a man???!!!

    It just confirmed my impression of Liz based on the book was accurate.

  • Carla

    Gosh, I wish you were my brother. I can’t stop laughing.


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