Yesterday I walked out of Eat Pray Love , which makes it one of less than a dozen films I've gone to a theater and paid money to see, and then gotten up and left the theater to avoid having to.
(I've turned off or skipped through many more DVDs, but that's a more casual, less intentional relationship.)
Eat Pray Love was an animated amalgamation of Gourmet and Travel magazines. That is, it was boring. It was so boring, it gave me time to dwell on what narcissistic nincompoops Americans can be, believing the world exists to help us work out our relationship issues, intimacy issues, food issues, lack-of-self-esteem issues, etc. and to show us our higher selves.
Julia Roberts's character is struggling with all these issues, and she's facing them by traveling around the world for a year. Not the Peace Corps or anything. This is tourism as therapy. She does not have a boyfriend, for the first time since she was fifteen! Wow! She's, like, choosing celibacy.
Isn't that brave?
She sits eating gelato on a bench in Italy next to a couple nuns in habits also eating gelato. She glances at them and smiles to herself: we're all celibate! Sisters are doing it for themselves!
Isn't that cute?
Then she goes and buys a pair of size 2 jeans instead of size 0 to show her newfound acceptance of her body! Shopping as liberation! YAY!
Really, this movie is more like Eat Prey Love, as it depicts this woman shopping around the world for self-fulfillment.
"Live from your heart," the world says. Thank you world!
The most despicable part comes in the first few minutes:
in the opening voice-over, J. R.'s character tells us about her psychologist friend's work with Cambodian refugees. The friend had been worried about how to help these boat people who'd managed to survive and flee Pol Pot's regime of terror.
But guess what?
The refugees just wanted to talk about their relationship issues too! Turns out dating in refugee camps and on overcrowded boats on the open sea is just as bad as dating in the affluent USA!
I feel so much better now. The Killing Fields had me all worked up... for years! But now I know everyone who wasn't murdered was fine afterward, pesky love troubles aside.
Possible moral? Send relationship counselors to Darfur! Burma! Arizona!
God, I hated this movie.
Anyway, I thought I'd write up a few of the other movies I've walked out on. I'm curious. Will any themes arise?
I'll start with Damage (1992) because the reason I left was incredibly simple:
I couldn't stand to watch Juliette Binoche get her head banged against the floor or wall in simulated throes of passionate illicit abandonment with Jeremy Irons (her future father-in-law) ONE MORE TIME.
The amazing thing about this particular walk-out was that I went to the movie with three other women--two friends and a near stranger from out of town--and we all of us leaned in toward each other at the same time (as Juliette's head was thumping against the floor for the nth time) and whispered, "Do you want to go?"
You may know, it's hard to get people to agree to leave a movie. In fact, that's probably one reason I haven't walked out on more--I haven't wanted to leave my companion. A four-way walk out is quite an achievement.
The theater staff happily gave us our money back, as if they were in cahoots with us, and told us what happens at the end. (Nothing good.)
I had the pleasant experience of being further vindicated all these years later when I just now found Janet Maslin's original NYT review of Damage.
"It must be noted that the film's sexual episodes are very strange. The staging is so arduous that the actors never appear comfortable or unself-conscious, which would seem to be two prerequisites for making their encounters work. On the simplest level, they often knock into things [Juliette's head especially!], and are forced into painfully awkward postures. One bout finds them seeming to be experiencing simultaneous seizures while attempting a difficult yoga position."
Only Japan chose to emphasize this in their movie poster, which is why I've chosen it (above). Reminds me a bit of the Japanese film In the Realm of the Senses (1976), another movie about uncomfortable sex (to put it mildly), but one I managed to sit through somehow. (I think because I didn't want to offend a friend, whose favorite movie it was.)
But as ridiculous as Damage was, if I had to sit through it or Eat Pray, I'd choose it.
[Other movies I've walked out of.]