There is a scene in Eat, Pray, Love where the boyfriend of Liz (Julia Roberts) wakes up to find her lying on the floor beside the bed and you can tell she has spent another sleepless night crying over the life she finds herself living. This flashback is a painful memory for Julia; for me, it’s the part where I relate the best to what the character of Liz is going through. I too have experienced those moments where, to be beside the person lying in bed next to you, feels like a long and painful decay of ‘self’. Their presence suffocates you but you feel like you are trapped beside them. You love them but you know inherently that they are destroying all that you know about yourself.
Eat, Pray, Love is about going on a quest to find ‘who you are’. It’s about letting go of all that is holding you back from happiness. Our stories are vastly different; my unhappiness came from an external source, whereas hers came from within. Nonetheless, the message is the same; when a relationship is broken, when it is making you into a walking ghost, then leave. This is what many people do not have the strength to do and so, perhaps, the message will be painful for many women who feel like they have no place to go.
The real point to this rambling is this: women (and some men) watch ‘chick flicks’ because they can relate to some aspect of it.
I am a literary snob and I get worked up about low class living, but when it comes to movies, I have a weakness for chick flicks and all the cliches that come with them. As a means to salvage my conscience, I have done a fair amount of thinking around the idea of the chick flick and all those bad connotations that come with the label. It always concerns me that movies so easily get categorized this and then, when the movie can actually appeal to men too, this fact gets celebrated. Quite honestly, I do not care if my boyfriend likes the movie or not. What is important to me, when it comes to movies, are the moments where I feel myself moved. The moments where I relate make the movie important to me. When it comes to life, and relating to a movie, what can be more universal than love? This, I believe, is why chick flicks are so successful.
There are many poignant moments in Eat, Pray, Love. For me to label it a chick flick is not to detract from these moments. As much as I am a cynic about unconventional healing and prophets, I liked hearing the life-lessons that were taught to the character of Liz; either explicitly or implicitly. So, despite its lack of realism (when have chick flicks ever been realistic?), there are teachings within the book and movie which may be important for many women around the world. For me, Eat, Pray, Love reinforced a belief that I already have: that you can have all the conventional indicators of success in life and still be unfulfilled. Fulfilment can come in many forms, so don’t be too narrow-minded to believe that love is the best indicator of success. Love can come from many different people, so don’t remain with someone who oppresses you. Freedom within love, love for yourself; these are better indicators of fulfilment.