I loved the book. I carried it around and bought copies for my girlfriends. And as with most stories, the book is better than the movie.
I wanted to love the movie, and for the most part, I did. But I don’t remember so much whining, so much angst about what seems like a pretty good life.
Julia Roberts is wonderfully expressive. Perhaps it was the dialogue, but much of her questioning of her life and its meaning fell flat and vapid. I found myself wondering “What does she have to complain about?” She keeps looking for meaning through others, but when they move to be that, she shies away.
The movie seems like four movies: the initial questioning of her life and marriage, the ITALY section, the INDIA section, and the BALI section. Even though a good amount of time was spent on each part, I never felt like the movie was dragging or too long at 133 minutes. I felt like she wasted the India section (very unappealing to me, especially after Italy’s orgy of tastes, language, scenery and lovable new-found friends). One of the story's central characters, "Richard from Texas" (played by Richard Jenkins) was so annoying that I wanted to get away from him myself. When at last he reveals his history, his platitudes and Buddhism instructions feel contrived and show him to be as human and flawed as everyone, and he is still searching after years. Is this to be her fate also?
Javier Bardem is perfectly cast as Felipe, a Brazilian importer living in Bali. He's sweetly lovable, and at the same time manifestly male. He's the kind of man that makes you yearn for a second chance. But again, somehow, Liz manages to get cold feet when he gets too close.
I went back to the book when I got home and found the inconsistencies in the adaptation from book to movie that contributed to my disappointment: in the book, Liz does not reject Felipe’s declaration of love and suggestion of an unorthodox committed relationship, she embraces it. I guess the screenwriters felt we needed a little extra “drama” and conflict to resolve. It felt clichéd, and because Liz was played by Julia Roberts, I was reminded of her character in Runaway Bride. It’s never good when you recognize the actress instead of the character.
Oh well, I still want to go to Italy and have spontaneous travelling experiences. I just won't have the cushion of a book advance to allow me to ditch everything and say que sera....