Serious Eats

Is 'Eat Pray Love' a Foodie Movie?

20100813-eatpraylove1.jpg

[Photographs: sonypictures.com]

Like the majority of other females between the ages of 20 and 60, I read Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. And I'm not ashamed to say, I enjoyed it, in a braincandy-beach-read kind of way. Today the film adaptation starring Julia Roberts comes out, and after an early screening, I must warn moviegoers: you will leave craving pasta. And gelato. Eaten with a teeny plastic spoon on a park bench next to nuns.

One-third of the title, of course, is a pretty important food verb. Eat. And the protagonist Liz—in her post-divorce, soul-searching jaunt across the globe—does most all of it in Italy (in fact, we rarely see food in the praying and loving parts). The film's food stylist was the super-talented Susan Spungen of Julie & Julia fame. (Remember when she showed us how she used an electric paint remover to make French onion soup meltiness happen?)

20100813-eatpraylove2.jpg

Roberts gobbled up eight slices during a 45-minute shoot of this pizzeria scene.

Specifically, there's one scene where Roberts is relishing a bowl of simple pasta, moaning as she shovels in each forkful. I don't remember how long it was, but long enough to make my stomach get all rumbly-grumbly and want to pry that bowl out of her happy hands. "I think that's the most controversial scene in the movie," said director Ryan Murphy (who also wrote Glee and Nip/Tuck) at a recent press conference for the film. "A woman joyfully and unabashedly eating pasta—it's kind of revolutionary."

Roberts said she had to eat six bowls during the shoot. And when asked how much pasta she's eaten since, without hesitating, she replied: "Tons. Can't slow me down."

Even before the film came out, fangirl readers (including one of my best friends) were journeying to the actual pizzeria in Naples, Da Michele, where Liz had her transcendental pizza experience described in the book:

"I love my pizza so much, in fact, that I have come to believe in my delirium that my pizza might actually love me, in return. I am having a relationship with this pizza..."

Others are flocking to the San Crispino gelato shop near the Trevi Fountain in Rome, where she ate all her gelato—one day as many as three times. In the book, this is followed by many passages describing her self-remorse, especially in relation to the effects on her muffintop.

The EPL-inspired globetrotting has become such a pop cultural phenom, STA Travel even has a special site devoted to it. And here's a themed Bingo game you can play once you get there!

Anyone who read the book and liked it should see this, but as New York Times film critic A.O. Scott said in his review today, it's "unlikely to change anybody's life or even to provoke emotions anywhere near as intense as those experienced, early and late, by its intrepid heroine...Watch. Smile. Go home and dream of Brazilians in Bali."

And Italy. And that darn bowl of pasta.

Printed from http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/08/is-eat-pray-love-a-foodie-movie-julia-roberts-susan-spungen.html

© Serious Eats