I don’t do movie reviews very often, but when a movie either particularly shines or stinks I feel compelled to voice my opinion. Eat, Pray, Love is one such movie. And though when it came out in 2010 it received all kinds of rave reviews, it is my opinion that it falls into the stink category. Maybe the reviewers on IMDb have it right when 42, 745 users give it an average 5.4 stars out of 10. Then again, maybe that’s generous. This movie suffers from a fatal flaw, and to demonstrate what that is, allow me to summarize the movie in one sentence.
Eat, Pray, Love is two and a half hours about an incredibly selfish woman who consistently walks away from everything good in her life because she’s too busy thinking about herself to recognize what’s right in front of her face.
Liz (Julia Roberts) ends a marriage with a man who truly and deeply loves her, because she’s unhappy. Why is she unhappy? Because fulfilling her desires and dreams is more important than his, when what they should have done was merge their desires and dreams into one. I think HE was trying to do that. But she would have none of it.
So she goes and shacks up with a guy, played by an actor (James Franco) who could probably be Julia Roberts’s son. But, she’s unhappy here and breaks it off again. Why? Because she’s too busy trying to force her relationship ideology on him rather than compromising.
So she goes off to live in Italy, where she meets some wonderful people who build great friendships and welcome her into their arms like family. She finds some measure of “happiness” here, but again she leaves. Why? Because that “happiness” does not match her definition of “happiness” and it’s not good enough for her.
So she leaves these wonderful friends and their Italian style of happiness to go to India, seeking a spiritual guru that can help her find peace and forgiveness with herself. But she can’t find any peace so long as the center of attention is on other people and other ideas. She has to take control of her spiritual direction to do it the way she wants, before she can figure out some measure of peace. And it takes her being given a responsibility that puts a large center of attention back on her before she finds some measure of forgiving herself.
Finally, she goes to Bali…dragging along this new superficial “balance” based on inward self-thinking that she found in India, only to shirk responsibilities and almost walk away from yet another person who has poured himself into her, because the relationship with him is messing up her “balance.” Come on!
At least that person, Felipe (Javier Bardem), FINALLY calls her out for her selfishness. Maybe the whole point of the movie was supposed to be this moment. Maybe that’s what the original author (Elizabeth Gilbert) intended, but the movie producers sort of lost it in the script translation.
Felipe tells her that finding balance is not letting others love you less than you love yourself. That’s a very Bilbo Baggins way of saying, you love yourself so much that it doesn’t matter how much others love you they’ll never measure up to your standards.
Ever since Italy, she’d been looking for a single word to describe who she is. At the end of the movie she claims to have found that word. But she got it wrong. Her word is…
Me. Me, me ,me, me, me, me, me.
But isn’t that indicative of our society? Aren’t we becoming a nation full of selfish me-monsters? Everywhere I look people are insisting that THEY are the center of the universe. They’re leaving marriages, families, jobs, and friends behind because they’re unhappy, when really they’re just too self-absorbed to notice how much they have and how many people love them. And they’re expecting everyone to cater to them, rather than earning something for themselves.
When the greatest love of our lives is ourselves, we’ll never find anyone or anything that can measure up to those standards and make us feel loved. The truth is, the only way to feel loved is to stop loving ourselves and to let others love us. And the only way to get balance in love is to let God’s love become our standard.
God’s love says, love God first and love others second (Matthew 22:37-39). God’s love says think of others more than you think of yourself (Philippians 2:3-11).
Unfortunately, Eat, Pray, Love is demonstrating a skewed mentality of love and self-worth, telling the audience that it’s okay for love to be defined by yourself and self-worth to be given by yourself. And when you’re defining your own love and own self-worth, it’s no wonder so many people are unhappy. Because deep down everyone wants love to be lavished on them by someone else and for others to show them they are worth something. We don’t really want to define love and self-worth ourselves. It’s unnatural and we crave it to be given from other people. But what other’s give never really measures up to the romanticized vision we have for love and self-worth, so we resort to giving those things to ourselves.
And it’s such a shame that as a society we’ve come to these depths of selfishness. Break the cycle. Be someone who pours love on others. Be someone who shows worth to others. And if you’re craving those things yourself, seek a power greater than human capability. There is one who has already defined the greatest love ever, and who wants to lavish it on you. There is one who thinks you’re worth so much that he was willing to die for you. Let Jesus define love in your life and let Jesus give you worth. Then and only then will you find a “balance” and “happiness” that will last.