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Somewhere around minute 109 in the133-minute runtime of “Eat Pray Love,” I turned to my date and asked, “Wanna leave?”

He nodded, so we did.

I’ve only walked out of one other movie in my life. The first one I left because it wasn’t what I expected. This one I left because it was exactly what I had expected — and I guess my stamina for that sort of thing is exhausted after an hour and a half.

“That sort of thing” is this watching people search — and search, and search, and search. And when they think they’ve found “it,” their new fixation is just as vapid as the last.

This is the second time I’ve let down Elizabeth Gilbert, the author behind the 2007 memoir upon which the film is based. My borrowed copy of Eat, Pray, Love sat near my bed for so long that I felt guilty about it and returned it to a friend, who was already done with its sequel Committed.

Film critics have gone on about the weaknesses of “Eat, Pray, Love,” many of whom have little problem with Julia Roberts’ acting but are underwhelmed by the storyline, which they chalk up to “women with first world problems.” She — Liz Gilbert — divorces a loving husband, shacks up with a much younger guy who doesn’t get her, and proceeds to leave the support of friends to gallivant around Italy, India and Bali.

And it is there — half way across the world from her New York home — where she learns to eat, pray and love.

Except pray, writes Alyssa Rosenberg at TheAtlantic.com. Early in the movie, when Liz realizes that she doesn’t want to be married anymore, she gets down on her knees and prays a very awkward prayer, proving to viewers that she truly lacks experience in this area. However, as Rosenberg observes, she doesn’t really learn to pray later, either. Yes, she spends time at a guru’s ashram in India, and she develops some inner peace. But prayer? Actual communication with God?

It’s dubious.

Rosenberg writes:

“. . . it’s not clear that she ever really connects in prayer there, and by the end of the movie, she’s basically decided that God resides within her, and is expressed in her living joyfully and openly. . . . And the two major actions she takes, calling on her friends to give money to help fund a house for a Balinese woman struggling to maintain custody of her daughter, and letting herself love again, aren’t clearly grounded in her religious conclusions. They are essentially secular manifestations of goodness, decency, and self-confidence.”

The Catholic News Service’s John Mulderig makes a similar point. “Liz engages in interminable navel-gazing and confuses psychobabble in the mouths of her chosen mentors for wisdom,” he writes. “The result is a dramatically sputtering, spiritually barren slog to the final credits.”

Take her time in Rome, Mulderig writes. “Though she seemingly hits every restaurant in town, she gives the churches a pass, the implication being that she knows better than to look to Catholicism for insight.”

Essentially, even though Liz thinks she finds fulfillment, she doesn’t. As Catholics, we know that only God can fulfill the deepest desires of the heart. Liz was on the right track in that she knew to look for God, but all she wound up with was self-esteem.

In Psalm 145:16, David writes to God: “You open wide your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.” And, indeed, until we look to God, we’ll find ourselves searching, and searching and searching, and creating ever-more off-kilter substitutions with which to define that search.

Like steak.

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12 Comments

  1. Anne-130524 September 6, 2010

    This is my first visit to this blog and I was happy to see a post that hit home and echoed my sentiments exactly regarding the movie “Eat, Pray, Love.” I too walked out of the movie at almost the same time as the poster since I was underwhelmed. Despite being warned by a friend who had already seen the movie and having read Ebert’s unfavorable review, I went to the movie knowing full well that watching it was going to be disappointing. I have no one to blame but myself.

  2. Espe-410886 September 7, 2010

    These kinds of superficial movies about finding oneself is so ridicules but also sad because this is the kind of life many people are living today or would like to live, “superficial” with no commitment! It’s been a throw away society for many years now and not getting any better, from abortion to marriages. I guess this kind of movie might hit the top charts only because of the famous Julia Roberts

  3. Sherrill-anne-13557 September 10, 2010

    Totally disappointing.Finding God through meditation without any refernce to his teachings and what he wants in your life and using others Runnaway Bride style.Shallow.

  4. Eileen-191759 September 10, 2010

    I don’t think as Catholics we reflect well the love of God when we criticize another’s spiritual journey. Who are we to decide if Liz Gilbert’s healing process was authentic or “of God”? If what you are offering in this commentary is evidence of the spirit within, then show me another God.

  5. Jane-580252 September 11, 2010

    This is the first time that I walked out of one of Julia’s movies. This movie was terrible.

  6. Roberta-423089 September 11, 2010

    I also was disappointed with the movie, mostly because I felt it was not a good representation of the book for those who read it. The book went much deeper into Liz’s emotional struggle and spiritual journey,, which the movie poorly portrays, and in my opinion almost makes a joke off..( i.e. go to a Ashrom and you find yourself).. Obviously we all come to find ourselves in different ways and open our eyes, ears and hearts to God plans for us differently, but I hope this doesn’t send many lost souls on a similar journey… Respectfully submitted.. Read the bible and come to know our Dear Lord

  7. Pam-95847 September 20, 2010

    I loved the movie. Read the book and am ready to go back and see the movie. Like one reader said, I do not have the right to criticize how someone else worships, as long as they are getting serenity in their life.

  8. Megan-21150 September 20, 2010

    What is serenity if it ultimately won’t lead you to Christ? Based on that, I think someone can honestly critique someone else’s path to self-knowledge and peace. Anything not based in things rooted in God ultimately won’t last and how fair is it to let others follow a path that, in the long run, won’t fulfill them?

  9. Sheila-254312 September 20, 2010

    There is nothing wrong in criticizing a movie we do not like. I haven’t seen it but I am not interested in doing so. Most movies today (except “G” and some “PG”) are about sex (premarital, unnatural, etc) and a lot of violence. Hollywood’s elite are so against wars and other violence in the real world yet reflect just the opposite in their movies. Hypocritical! One post says that it is un-Christian to criticize how one finds themselves and peace in their lives, I would like to remind her that Jesus did get upset and criticize the people often. One time he took a whip to the cheating money-changers’ tables and goods at the Temple, and he often got right to the point with the Pharasees calling them “…white-wash tombs”, etc.. Christians do not have to be warm and fuzzy but tell it like it is or your opinion of like it is. Our culture is very secular and anti-Christian (especially towards Catholicism) , so I wouldn’t expect this movie to reflect the Christian view. First of all, if she was really searching in prayer what God wants, she would not decide to divorce her husband to find herself and certainly God’s answer in her heart would not tell her to do so! Opinions and ideas of Christians should be heard in the “public square” and it is a shame that it looks as though we are becoming as secular as Europe. God forbid! Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor Rally” drawing thousands and thousands of people gives me hope. Of course the mainstream media had just negative things to say and discounted it. Recently as well, the media gave negative headlines to the Pope’s trip to the UK even though he was very warmly received by most of the people there. Shame on them. It almost reminds me when legal Catholic immigrants entered America there was a great bias against them and some stores and other places had a sign in the window that said, “Catholics need not apply”. We have to stand up to this bigotry and speak our minds in a peaceful way and let the elites know we are not “doormats”. God bless.

  10. Steve-235244 September 22, 2010

    I took my 80 year young Aunt to see the show. We enjoyed it even though my aunt’s batteries in her hearing aid died. WHAT? Oh yeah the popcorn was great LOL
    I wanted to share these words from long ago. God Bless You.

  11. Matt-685717 November 5, 2013

    “…watching people search — and search, and search, and search. And when they think they’ve found “it,” their new fixation is just as vapid as the last.”
    Brilliantly stated, Maria Wiering.

  12. Matt-685717 November 5, 2013

    It seems Julia Roberts is a source of confusion. First, most people think those with diabetes experience epileptic seizures (which doesn’t happen) because Julia Roberts’ character did that in Steel Magnolias. Thanks, Julia! Now we see her abandoning a good spouse and finding another being depicted as “love”.

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