The other night, my wife and I took in the new Julia Roberts movie, "Eat, Pray, Love." It's the story of Elizabeth Gilbert, a writer who goes through a wrenching divorce and decides to spend a year traveling to find her sanity and sense of self again. She chooses Italy, India and Bali as her destinations.
Because Gilbert is a professional writer, the story seems a tad calculated. "I'm going to find myself," I can hear her saying, "and then I'll write a book about finding myself. So where would be three wonderful, exotic places to go looking for me?"
In Italy, Gilbert learns to indulge herself. The Italy segment is all about letting go. And Gilbert works mightily to get back in touch with her impulses and appetites.
She spends her time in India at an ashram getting in touch with her "spiritual side."
Then in lush and lovely Bali, she goes for romance, landing the swarthy and tender Felipe (Javier Bardem).
Apparently "finding herself" entails finding an irresistible man.
So, if you're a soul who thinks self-interest is interesting, then Gilbert's chronicle is for you.
Hollywood already gave us "All About Eve." Now it gives us "All About Elizabeth."
Eat, pray, love and preen.
As for me, while watching the film I kept wondering how another type of woman — Mother Teresa, say — would have structured this journey.
I think Mother Teresa would have kept the title, but would have juggled the order of the stopovers.
She'd begin in Bali with "eat," where she'd talk about being self-absorbed and self-indulgent.
Then she'd move on to Italy for "pray," where she'd learn to consecrate her life to the Catholic Church and God.
And finally, she'd end up in India for "love," where she would dedicate her life to helping the destitute and dying on the streets of Calcutta — which, of course, she did.
Instead of "All About Me," Mother Teresa would give us "All About God."
I doubt such a movie would become a Hollywood blockbuster, but in an era when people are more interested in themselves than anyone else, it would certainly be refreshing.
In the Julia Roberts movie, Gilbert returns several times to a line that she uses as a spiritual mantra of sorts — "God lives in me, as me."
I half suspect Mother Teresa would have jettisoned that thought and replaced it with another: "If you want to find yourself, give yourself away."
In that film, I'm afraid Bardem would get left at the altar.