Too often in our American society, we view being alone as something unfortunate or melancholic, a result of circumstance not of personal choice. But even for the most social butterfly, a regular bit of alone time affords some great little pleasures and an opportunity for introspection.
A testament to my introversion, one of my very favorite activities is going to the movies solo. So, about once a month, I choose a film and set out to enjoy my movie "me time." I adore browsing fandango to see what chick flicks or art films are playing at the local theater. I carefully check out the reviews and labor over my choice, not wanting to waste my two hours on a cinematic dud or downer.
As I head off to the theater, I stash some twizzlers or other high fructose goodness in my bag and then grab a cherry coke at the concession stand. For me, single-girl movie-going is synonymous with a splurge on some sugary snacks.
I feel so relaxed when I enter the dark theater and choose my favorite spot at in the back of the room. Because I am chronically early to everything, I take such solace in those moments before the movie starts, watching groups of friends or couples taking their seats and listening to the crunch of buttered popcorn and the slurp and slush of giant five dollar sodas.
Once the previews start rolling, I break out the snacks and resign to my over-sugared, sublimely happy state. Whenever I view a film with my husband or family or friends, I can't help but think, "do they like what they see on the screen?" But, when going it alone, you only need please yourself---you're the only critic that matters. As the final credits roll, there's no one who wants to rehash or review the film, there's no one to dislike your favorite scene or to deride your favorite megastar actress or to complain about the whiny soundtrack.
Today, I experienced the perfect loner film. Even though the reviews of Eat, Pray, Love have been generally unpalatable, unenlightened and unromantic, I planned on seeing this film regardless of critical response, in fact, in spite of it.
How could I possibly say no to an afternoon vicarious traveling through Rome, India and Bali? How could I turn down a date with the alluring James Franco, the masterful Richard Jenkins or the enigmatic Javier Bardem?
While the film lacked some of the emotional heft of Elizabeth Gilbert's pondering memoir (see my discussion of the book here), the scenery and cast alone make the movie worth investing two and a half hours. Though I tend to find Julia Robert's guffaw and signature toothy grin endearing, if you aren't a fan of Julia's, be forewarned, she is in every single eating, praying and loving scene.
I watched Liz (who might as well just go by the name Julia in the film, as it is practically impossible to see Mrs. Roberts Moder as a character and not as herself) morph from a tearful heap of dissatisfaction in New York to a joyful pizza-eater in Napoli, from a fatigued and self-critical yogi in India to a blissful, free-spirited lover in Bali.
Having read the book, the film brought back so many emotions about self-discovery and human relationships. Sitting there, alone in the dark theater, nudged in my seat, was ultimately the finest way to view this film and reconsider Liz Gilbert's poignant message. Though Gilbert's story is intensely personal, it is also universal.
While we all may not want to start our lives over or retrace our major choices, while not all of us want to travel for a year in search of self, there are bits of her adventure that resonate with each of us. Perhaps you too have felt the need to get away, to escape---maybe not for four months in India, but just a long weekend in Santa Barbara. Perhaps you too have struggled with who you've become or have judged yourself too rigorously for past wrongs. Maybe you too have had an wanton relationship with a bowl of spaghetti.
I think the disparaging reviewers may have missed the point on this particular film. The movie is a bit long, the travels do haphazardly wander the globe, and at times, we grow weary of the main character. But the journeys are also rich with unexpected friends, luscious cuisine and sights of unparalleled beauty. Whether they're Liz Gilbert's or ours, isn't that how all journeys of self-awareness ultimately unfold? They pair the bitter with the sweet, the new with the old, and dreams with reality to move us forward and make us better humans.
Images borrowed from Columbia Pictures.
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