Jami Attenberg: I have to preface this by saying I was 75% predisposed to like Eat, Pray, Love. I enjoyed the book version a great deal, I practice yoga and meditation and I love food porn in movies.
Jami: The other 25% was Julia Roberts.
Maura Johnston: Oh Julia.
Jami: She wearies me. She talks about her husband too much in interviews.
Maura: I like her, but I think 67% of my predisposition toward her is because of My Best Friend’s Wedding.
Jami: She never ever has any girlfriends in any of her movies. She doesn’t do well with women.
Jami: And yet she is America’s sweetheart.
Maura: She had some lady attachés in this film!
Jami: Well, she had her editor, who has to like her.
Maura: And then there was the Manic Pixie Dream Swede she met in Italy, who took time out to thank Liz FIRST at the Italian Thanksgiving table!
Jami: That is true, because Liz changed her life forever because she told her it was OK to eat.
Jami: This movie is all about people giving permission to other people.
Jami: To be an asshole, to be selfish, to love.
Maura: And to admit that their life is pretty OK, which, well, I have to be honest — that “wow HOW GREAT IS MY LIFE” attitude was so much of what predisposed me against EPL from the outset, I think. Or, rather, the unexamined greatness of Elizabeth Gilbert’s life. Yes, it had a fair amount of ennui, but it did not seem that bad in filmed form.
Maura: That book party in the opening scene!
Jami: I know that book parties like that exist, and that apartments like that exist, but I never actually see them. This is a how-the-other-half lives movie. Which is fine. But it feels not as relatable to me as the book did.
Maura: I have not read the book, I should point out here. Although I did see my sister reading it this weekend. She was enjoying it. It seems like a fairly speedy read.
Jami: I never recommend it to anyone because almost everyone I know has already read it. Most of my female friends started to hate Gilbert at some point in the book, but that was because they were jealous.
Jami: And they wanted to go on this trip. And not have to work for a year.
Maura: I mean… I’ll be honest. I would like all those things. And Javier Bardem, too.
Jami: You have to go to Bali to get yourself a Bardem.
Jami: I think she makes some really lovely and important though not very complex ideas palatable to a mass audience, and because she is a good writer, and writes about gender roles well, it was a successful book.
Jami: Also, I stood next to Elizabeth Gilbert once at a party and she really does glow and seem special.
Jami: When you lose the prose stylings, you are stuck with James Franco being hot but not particularly substantial.
Maura: And kind of vaguely out of it. Playing the role of “James Franco,” almost.
Maura: Some YouTube auteur should do a mashup of his “Eat Pray Love” scenes and his “General Hospital” bits.
Jami: I laughed inappropriately a lot at him.
Maura: Well, he was funny!
Next: just how funny was he?
Jami: I wrote down two of the lines that he said that made me laugh really loud.
Jami: My favorite one was, “I like it messy.”
Jami: Because he sounded like a five-year-old.
Jami: I felt bad you were sitting next to me.
Jami: I didn’t mean to embarrass you.
Maura: No, no. You didn’t at all. If anything it helped my enjoyment of the movie, because the part preceding her trip to Italy needed puncturing.
Maura: The bit where she just got sick of her husband felt kind of rushed.
Maura: Like, she said she wanted to go to Aruba for work, her husband said he wanted to go back to school, and because of that she’s like, “OK, I’m out.”
Maura: Granted, there had to be some expediting of the pre-trip narrative because the movie was REALLY LONG.
Jami: Sometimes marriages just fall apart because one person doesn’t appreciate being married to a fabulous travel writer.
Maura: And wants to go to school instead.
Maura: TO SCHOOL, Jami.
Maura: Maybe I’ve just met too many shiftless dudes in recent months, years, forevers.
Maura: And I guess he seemed kinda flighty? From pastry chef to vague “education major.”
Jami: Last week a man made a pass at me by saying, “You wouldn’t want to do something stupid with me, would you?”
Jami: All I could think was, “This is EXACTLY how I think about sexual encounters. They are stupid. Your stupid penis dangling near my stupid vagina.”
Jami: They can’t even get it up to get it up.
Maura: That’s better than the car-service driver last week who spent 10 minutes asking me why I didn’t have a boyfriend and then after I told him to shut it asked me if I liked “his type.”
Jami: People keep asking Julia Roberts the whole movie why she doesn’t have a boyfriend.
Maura: Yes. I kept flashing back to that car driver, ha.
Jami: Sorry, Liz Gilbert.
Jami: But don’t worry, in real life Julia Roberts has a HUSBAND.
Maura: You don’t need a man… until you need a man.
Maura: Is that the message?
Next: Well, is it?
Maura: I guess it’s that whole “love yourself and people will love you” sort of thing.
Maura: Kind of like at yoga, which we attended pre-movie in order to get in the right frame of mind!
Jami: The good thing about going to yoga first was that it made us want to be entertained. We were open-minded.
Jami: We even stopped at the Fresh store, where the book is for sale.
Maura: Where we were informed that the tie-in perfumes were pretty much SOLD OUT.
Maura: The only one remaining in any form was Pray.
Jami: It smelled too dirty hippie for my tastes.
Maura: I liked it OK. I tried some on. It smells less… hippieish now. Sweeter. The hippie burned off in the August heat.
Jami: The salesgirl told us that the owner of Fresh had designed special scents for Julia and Liz, secret scents that none of us can ever have access to unless we are their HUSBANDS.
Maura: Or, you know, the people who are charged with making them up for TV appearances, et al.
Jami: I like to think they save them for special occasions.
Maura: The book was for sale there too. I bet you Fresh has a ridiculously good sell-through rate. Like, better than Urban Outfitters.
Jami: I can’t say I wasn’t jealous. I read that entire book and wasn’t jealous of her once, but boy oh boy, did I wish that was one of my paperbacks sitting in that store.
Maura: Totally understandable.
Maura: I felt pinpricks of jealousy throughout the movie, but that’s because I have a traveling itch.
Jami: I don’t object to the message of this movie. She came to him on her terms.
Jami: And I definitely didn’t object to the message of the book.
Jami: What I object to is James Franco sucking the life out of the first 1/3 of the movie.
Jami: It wasn’t until Julia Roberts met up with the older wise men — and she has done notoriously well with them in the past; Richard Gere, Albert Finney, David Letterman — that the movie started cooking.
Maura: Despite all the food porn in Italy.
Jami: The food porn was eh. Good but not great. Julie and Julia was way better for food porn. Any Nora Ephron film is better for food porn.
Maura: That movie really made me want spaghetti.
Maura: I mean, the “eat” part of the film was just … hammered home.
Jami: Yes, she ate. But did we get to SEE the muffin top? You can’t just say “muffin top” and not back it up.
Maura: There was that bit where she was on the floor of the fitting room being “squeezed” into “fat” jeans.
Maura: But it seemed … unconvincing?
Jami: Size 6 instead of 2? Eff that.
Maura: Did you think the movie erred by not giving up the ghost that the book deal was the reason she embarked on the trip?
Jami: Because how could she afford all of this?
Maura: I think the only thing we actually saw her pay for was that “I am silent” nametag that she bought at the ashram, and discarded almost immediately after purchasing it.
Jami: Money isn’t mystical, Maura.
Maura: If only it were!
Maura: Then I could pray for some to rain down upon my head.
Jami: The other thing I was going to say about yoga was that even though it made us open-minded, it also made us sharp and clear-headed. So maybe our bullshit meters were more likely to go off?
Jami: Or perhaps our bullshit meters are always likely to go off.
Maura: You mean, like during the bit where Liz pushed the young Indian girl who wanted to go to school and make herself smarter into her arranged marriage.
Maura: Like …
Maura: At first she seemed sort of dubious about it, and then, we have a meditation scene and then all of a sudden, oh hey, wedding!
Jami: She should have asked all her rich friends to write a check to get that girl out of there.
Jami: Get her into Wesleyan, an internship at Conde Nast Traveler.
Maura: A share in Brooklyn, right by Book Court.
Jami: They could meditate together on the weekends.
Jami: Instead, she raised money for that family of healers in Bali. But in the book, they were portrayed as con artists who didn’t end up buying the house.
Jami: And in the movie, they build a beautiful, happy home.
Maura: With sea-blue tiles.
Jami: Those were pretty tiles. You know where those tiles would look great?
Jami: On the floor of a Fresh store.