I have the highest respect and regard for Elizabeth Gilbert’s books and literary style, especially after City of Girls. The number of times I’ve watched Eat, Pray, Love and agonised over Liz’s struggles with faith and identity, two topics very close to my heart, have also slipped into oblivion. It is my go-to movie when I need a comforting movie with redeeming values of humanity, pretty much like Forest Gump or Dead Poet’s Society. So after much ado, I decided it was high time to read Eat, Pray, Love and see how much the screenplay massacred the original version, as is often the case. Half way through Book 1 it became painfully clear that this would be a struggle, a feeling reinforced in the subsequent books.
It is easy to get lost in the details and explanations provided by Gilbert as essential backdrops to the pursuit of faith and happiness. So much so that I often lost track of the storyline. The book is much more esoteric in nature than a story with a plot, as the movie portrays. And the trouble with having watched the movie first is that I ended up reading the book searching for the elusive thread that connected all the characters. Once I got past the concept that the book was not an ordinary storyline but more of a new age travelogue, it became easier to plough through all the concepts of yoga, meditation, Hinduism, Italian, Bali, and so on.
If I had read the book first and then watched the movie, it would have been impossible to reconcile the two. On the other hand, much as I loved the movie, the emotional breakdowns and milestone “enlightenment” moments during Liz’s meditations are not captured in the movie.
Then there is the fact that in my mind I have Julia Roberts doing all the talking, but when I read the book I wondered whether Ms Roberts was the right choice at all. The internet is full of comparisons of the book and movie versions of Eat, Pray, Love. Take your pick and choose a side, but at the end of the day, the experience you have after reading the book or watching the movie a completely different from each other.