I went and saw Eat Pray Love this past weekend.
Now, I love that book. It was the inspiration for The Road Trip; it got me through one of the nastiest breakups ever; every time I read it I find something new that speaks to my current difficulties.
I love Elizabeth Gilbert. She writes some crackerjack fiction (Stern Men, it's like Jacob Have I Loved crossed with The Bean Trees and you should read it) and she's delightful in person (when she signed my book I teared up a little, because I'm not cool like that), and she wrote a memoir that touched millions of women.
The movie was bad.
And by the movie was bad, I mean the screenplay was bad.
Julia Roberts was fine. Everyone can shut up about her performance. She's great. Loved her. She brought energy to this movie.
But the adapted screenplay was just awful, because they spent so much time trying to squeeze in all the little special moments that people loved about the book that they completely missed the story of a woman who went from being miserable to being happy.
Now, the India sequence was fantastic. You know why? Because it was nothing like the book. In the book Richard didn't tell a story about nearly running over his little boy. There was no elephant. She dedicated her Gurugita to her nephew, not the sweet young Indian girl. Her roommate never took a vow of silence. But the story was true.
My writing professor used to say about fiction, "Did it happen? No. Is it true? Yes." And that's where this movie went wrong. Trying to include accurate stuff in the beginning made Liz Gilbert look like an ungrateful, entitled rich bitch, because they couldn't include all of it; but by including some accurate moments they left out the story of a woman, who was so miserable from drowning in her false self that she couldn't have seen anything good if it whacked her in the nose, finding enough strength to do something she had always wanted to do after losing all of her assets in a divorce.
So this is my message to screenwriters: Fictionalize it if you have to, but for God's sake save the story. I would rather have seen a movie about an entirely different person learning that being honest with yourself will bring you to happiness than an accurate portrayal of events that left out the story.