See, Sleep, Snore …

2010-10-11 00:00

SELF-INDULGENCE is seldom a pleasure to anyone other than the indulger. I’m told by those who’ve read Liz Gilbert’s memoir on which Eat, Pray, Love is based, that her writing redeems the story of a self-absorbed neurotic who gets a publisher to fund a book on how to find the meaning of life in three easy steps. In 12 months.

Gilbert’s bright idea comes after divorcing a husband whose crime seems to have been that he didn’t want to travel to Aruba with her on a story. He also appears not to have had a career and been prone to spontaneity. Okay, I’m simplifying here. He may well have been an immature, feckless little twerp sponging off his witty and successful wife, in which case good riddance. And what is a 30-something divorcee to do afterwards but bed a young actor who, like her, disguises his neuroses in a fog of incense and borrowed belief.

That obviously doesn’t work and she dreams up her three-point plan for personal salvation.

Step one: go to Italy and stuff your face. Now, Italy is a beautiful country, and the Italian language does cause palpitations of an erotic nature, but watching Julia Roberts (in the role of Gilbert) staring lasciviously at a plate of spaghetti bolognese is not as orgasmic as it is clearly supposed to be. And since this is a story about living by numbers, Rome and Naples and Tuscany are for Gilbert about getting in touch with her alimentary canal, so Latin love is eschewed for close encounters of the masticatory kind. Meaning in this world is measured by waist-size, so when the pants get to be big enough, it’s time to move on to the next stage of the journey.

Step two: go to an ashram in India and meditate. Watching someone meditate must be even more boring than watching them eat. Since depicting spiritual progress poses some challenges to the film-maker, the scriptwriters decided to pave this section of the heavily-travelled road to self-enlightenment with every cliché they could find in the index of corniness. So bountiful was their yield that the dam of banalities burst its banks and flooded part three too.

Step three: go to Bali, get drunk and, yes, well, along comes Felipe (Javier Bardem), whose name in real life is Jose and who’s Brazilian and who’s divorced and who loves his son and who cries, which tells us he’s a real man. Ergo, spaghetti plus shakti equals marriage and a house in New Jersey.

This last bit’s not in the movie, but it is the end of the story. Which sounds very much like where the whole thing started. Circle of life, maybe.

I’m sure the hundred million women who loved the book can’t be wrong, but somewhere between the writing and the filming Liz Gilbert’s life story has turned into See, Sleep, Snore.


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