A Screenwriters Dream Movie Review of Eat Pray Lost

dream movie review of eat pray lost

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Because of my dream to have a screenplay produced, I thought it would be interesting to do a review of Eat Pray Love from a screenwriters point of view. Have you seen the movie?

Did you enjoy the travelogue? Do you think the film was a good representation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book?

Movies are an attempt to tell a story, along with this intent is the idea of communicating a set of characters, a certain period of time, or even a strong emotion. Screenwriters who watch movies tend to pay attention to the intent of a film and judge it accordingly.

In my blog from last week, Will Eat Pray Love Get Lost in Translation, I wrote about movie adaptations from books, and how they rarely work. Let me make this perfectly clear, I didn’t finish the book. I made it only half the way through Liz’s time in Italy. I could no longer stomach her narcissism and me-me-me-isms. I later discovered that people either loved or hated the book.

I was meeting some of my fellow 8womendreamers at the theater. Three of them had read (and loved) the book. Women are really an under-served demographic when it comes to movies.

Since the book was on the New York Times Bestseller list for so many months, a Oprah Book Club selection, and was all the buzz amongst so many women, we assumed people would be beating the doors down to see it (especially since this was the opening weekend).

Some came in pairs, others in groups. My guess is there were even some book club members in attendance. There was even a smattering of men scattered in a sea of women. The theater was full by the time the lights went down and hopes were high that the movie would take everyone away on Elizabeth’s soul-searching journey.

The beginning of the movie gives short shrift to the unraveling of Elizabeth’s marriage (to Billy Crudup) and subsequent divorce. She takes on a much younger boyfriend she tires of after only a couple weeks (although in the book he tires of her).

She decides to embark on a year long journey of self-recovery and discovery.

How can she afford this extravagant trip?

Liz’s sojourn was funded by a generous advance of $200,000 to write the memoir. She was to pen this book after return. Some may question the integrity of the true reason for her trip (this advance was not mentioned in the movie or the book).

There is a staying that films are edited, not made. A good editor may not always be able to salvage a bad film, but a bad editor can ruin what might otherwise been a wonderful film.

When film shots are placed next to each other in a sequence, the link between them is known as a transition. The simplest of these is a cut – a straight splice from one section of film to another. Sometimes we notice these, and sometimes they are so subtle we do not.

In Eat Pray Love, the way some of the scenery was filmed it was hard to stay visually with a scene. The film scenes sometimes would come swooping down on the characters like some hawk about to grab them and take off in flight. This type of transition was annoying. The film could be visually beautiful some scenes and then dark and gungy in others.

Was some of the problem with this movie the way it was filmed and edited?

Or was it a failing of the re-telling of the story?

The screenwriters Ryan Murphy and Jennifer Salt fail horribly to elaborate on her inner turmoil and depression. It feels more like a mission for soul searching.

Film critic Dezhda Gaubert writes: “There are always changes made to the book, that ironically water down the plot, instead of bringing it into focus. There’s no clear inciting incident that launches Liz’s nervous breakdown (indeed in the movie, she doesn’t have one), thus the stakes are low certainly not enough to send a woman off on a yearlong trip to foreign lands.”

Casting is vital to a movie’s success. I believe an unknown should have been cast for the role of Elizabeth Gilbert. The viewer would be able to focus on the role and the unfolding story.

It’s hard to see past Julia Roberts, a larger-than-life Hollywood star to the character being portrayed. Julia seems to play herself in most of the roles she acts in.

Personally, I clearly felt more of an emotional connection with Richard From Texas (Richard Jenkins) and Felipe (Javier Bardem). These two roles had more back story in their limited time on the screen than Liz who was virtually in every frame of the movie.

Eat Pray Love has proven my point that books rarely translate well into movies. The website Rotton Tomatoes gave the movie a 38% on the tomatometer. The tomatometer measures the percentage of positive reviews from approved critics.

Movie critic Randy Cordova states: “In the memoir Liz emerged as self-absorbed, spoiled and emotionally reckless. She wasn’t terribly likable, but she was oddly compelling. In the movie, the emphasis has shifted a bit-now you’ve got a character that is a lot more likable, BUT she is a lot more interesting.”

Entertainment Weekly gave it a C+.

The Hollywood Reporter Kirk Honeycutt:“A heavily idealized journey of self-discovery with a pretty woman, pretty scenery and a pretty shallow view of Eastern spirituality.”

Variety’s Justin Chang – “Gilbert’s more discriminating readers may find themselves reaching for pillows and Pepto Bismo by the end of this voyage.”

After the movie, I polled the girls to get their reactions

Catherine’s thoughts – “It was like visiting an old friend, and brought back memories of the book. Since I loved the book, I enjoyed the film. I am disappointed with them not using someone like Jenny Bicks to create a running monologue of Elizabeth narrating much of the movie. Bicks was wonderful at narrating with Sex and the City in the television series and Men in Trees, which I think would have helped people who haven’t read the book.

I liked Julia Roberts in the role more at end of the movie, but would have liked Cate Blanchett in the role. I feel they did not really capture that Liz was dealing with major depression – the kind of depression which needs drugs to overcome. I always think of that scene in the lawyers office in Under The Tuscan Sun with Dianne Lane when I think of portrayal of a woman at the end of her rope – she did such a great job of portraying her broken heart in that film. I just didn’t get the same from Julia Roberts. In fact sometimes it was hard for me to tell if Julia Roberts was feeling anything.

I was disappointed in their portrayal of Richard from Texas because he was so much stronger in the book, and the story about him almost killing his son isn’t true. Alec Baldwin would have been great at playing an in-your-face A personality.

They did not take the time to fully develop her close friendship with the woman in Bali, why she wanted to buy them the house, and asked her friends to help.

I like the way it ended though – I remember the trip they took to the island.”

Heather’s thoughts“I wanted to LOVE this move, Instead when I got home and my husband excitedly asked how it was, I responded “Good”.

I love the story, the scenery, what they covered on film in a little over 2 hours, but I wanted to connect to Liz. Her intense processing when she is deciding to go and throughout the experiences at all the destinations, were light.

I finally started to care about Liz half way through the movie.

I need to read the book again and reconnect. Maybe I’ll find the tidbits I was looking for after the fact.”

Laurie loved the movie and thought it was a successful adaptation of the book. “There was a feeling of a woman stepping away from societies norms and finding herself, both in the book and in the movie.”

Check out this interesting audio discussion of the movie by three female writers called Eat Pray Watch Julia Roberts on a year-long journey of self-discovery by Dana Stevens –

And a scene from the movie with Richard from Texas –

An my review? 1 popcorn bag out of 10. I would not recommend this movie, as it seem as contrived as “Sex and the City Part II”. Don’t get me started on that shallow mess.

What did you think of the movie?  Was it Eat, Pray, Lost for you too?

I’d love to read your review of the movie so leave me your comments below!

Lights out –


Toni left 8 Women Dream in November of 2010 to work full-time on her screenplay and focus on Club B.

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  • Myra Baldwin

    You have a honest review here. It looks like you have done great research on this screenplay, discovered what can be wrong with a film, and how filmmakers lose their audience.

  • Toni Schram

    I find it interesting that you avoided the book because
    IT was a bestseller.

    Elizabeth Gilbert was a bestselling author before she wrote “Eat Pray Love” so indeed, she would be considered in the upper class in regards to her net worth.

    And the fact that she got $200,000 to write about her path to self discovery. Not many people could afford her yearlong journey…

    What’s important is the fact that you enjoyed the book and hopefully will love the movie as well.

    Thanks for your comment Pam.


  • Pam

    I originally avoided the book because it was a best seller for a long time. Finally found it in a used book store, which is in my modest income level, and surprise, I enjoyed it. It’s funny and clever, and not as shallow as I expected, or heard, from women who didn’t finish the book. I am not upper, or even middle, class. I am of the bohemian class and lifestyle, so I find it funny that people keep saying this is a story of the rich and privileged. I just don’t get this sentiment. I was happy after I read this book. I liked her journey. She made me laugh. I will probably watch the movie when it comes to DVD without any more agenda than watching any light film, and I feel I will enjoy it like I did the book. Pam

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  • Catherine, Site Admin

    I find that some reviewers really like to pick on Elizabeth Gilbert’s story telling, as they don’t believe all that she says that happened. Life can have some amazing twists that sometimes people would not believe.

    Would everyone believe that a strange man in Rite Aid gave me the keys to his brand new Mercedes (my dream car) and let me go get inside it without him? He never even watched me out the window. He was busy in the pharmacy.

    It’s why my girlfriend KB used to say about my life, “You can’t make this shi* up . . ”

    I knew EG got an advance on the book because she does talk about it in the book (not the amount) and she goes home between each trip (also covered in the book).

    Authors have editors who edit what is written, along with book publishers who will ask for certain changes. The same is true of the film.

    I can’t imagine missing the India and Bali portion of the book, as she goes from being a depressed person to serving others in India. When people are in depression, the whining does sound like me-me-me. Everyone has been there done that – bloggers have done it too when they pour their unhappiness on to the page (thus the readers) and don’t understand that the reader perceives it as a very me-me-me type of writing. It’s kind of like standing next to that person at a party who complains about their life.

    Any writing that starts with “I” has the perception of being interpreted as selfish. I (ha) recommend picking the book up at India and finishing it to see what you think.

    I would recommend the movie to those who read the book, and like the movie/book or not, women should go see movies for women so that Hollywood will make more of them. We cannot continue to complain about choices if we don’t support the movies when they are made.

    The men I know are not as hard on films as we are. They look at them more like and amusement ride, grateful for the time spent somewhere else. Maybe that’s why their movies sell so much better?


    • Toni Schram

      As you suggested, I should read the India and Bali portions of the book where she emerges from her depression and begins to serve others.

      Where was that in the movie? The only person she seemed to be serving was herself.

      It’s true we should be supporting movies for women. But does that mean we have to see less quality movies just because they were made for women?

      Men’s movies sell better because they have little competition from women’s movies.

      Wake up Hollywood and make some good quality movies for 51% of the US population! Please!

  • I’m surprised at how many women found Elizabeths soul searching journey to be a narcissistic self serving trip. I feel anytime a woman steps out of the box and does something besides Prozac and counseling to find herself, it’s a valuable lesson. I think it’s wild how the woman in the interview is beyond defensive about even having the book in her home. What is all the hate about? There were things I loved and things that I felt could have been a little better, but all in all I loved the adventurous aspect of the film. And besides all this, what about Javier? Good Lord, about as close to sex god as you can get! I loved how quickly she ditched the “I am in silence pen.” I love movies, because I want to
    be entertained, and I didn’t want to see all the details of her despair. I’m an optimistic triple Libra, so I would not make a good movie critic….I look for the light and love in all things. See you at the movies!
    Love and Joy, Laurie

    • Toni Schram

      Art, i.e., books, movies, music are subjective an everyone definitely has their own opinion.

      But it’s when I went about researching people and critic’s opinions, I found I was not in the minority with my thoughts.

      I usually don’t take a critic’s word per se but when the
      reviews are so one sided, it does give me pause.

      What matters most is, you were entertained and you
      got your $$$’s worth!