Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, March 19, 2010

Do chick travel flicks require light packing or heavy baggage to be worth the trip?

The official trailer for Eat,Pray,Love was released this week,a film both eagerly awaited and reluctantly accepted by those who either adored the Elizabeth Gilbert memoir upon which it was based or found the book to be a self congratulatory pseudo-spiritual ego fest.

I haven't read the book and frankly,have no real interest in it other than the cultural phenomenon that EPL has become. After all,you don't get a star like Julia Roberts to be in the film story of your life by making a quiet splash on the pop culture scene. This will no doubt be a big summer film,marketing itself to older audiences that prefer something smarter than the average big bell and whistles 3-D blockbusters set to dominate most of the multiplexes by July 4th:

Eat,Pray,Love was an Oprah favorite(not an official book club selection but she did devote at least two episodes to EPL and will probably have Julia Roberts on to promote the movie before the summer)and many a reading group chose to share and discuss all of the insights that Gilbert gained on her one year journey thru India,Italy and Bali as she regained her self esteem by developing an interest in Eastern religion,enjoying good meals and figuring out her love life.

This wasn't the first book,however,that had an upper middle class,middle aged woman sorting out her life by traveling overseas. A few years earlier,Frances Mayes wowed the literary world and book clubs as well with Under The Tuscan Sun,her memoir about buying and restoring an old villa in the countryside of Central Italy and how that helped her find both inner peace and outer happiness. The film starred Diane Lane and did decently at the box office as well as a regular go-to film on the female friendly cable channel circuit:

I did try to read Under the Tuscan Sun but couldn't get beyond the first twenty pages and eventually gave up. I don't regret that or care to give it another go-round(or even check out the movie),mainly because something about women like Mayes or Gilbert just don't connect with me.

Nothing against either one of them;I'm sure that their emotional insights are sincere but many of us don't have the financial luxury or freedom in our personal and professional obligations to just throw everything in a suitcase and start life over in a exciting foreign setting. Some may enjoy living that experience vicariously through others but as Shania Twain once sang,that don't impress me much.

Someone who did impress me quite a bit recently was Julia Child,whose memoir,My Life in France,came out in a shiny new reprint due to last summer's release of Julie and Julia.

Julia's chronicles of her days in post-WWII France,where she developed a true love of French cuisine and a burning desire to share that joy with her fellow Americans was the basis for that half of the film that dealt with the woman behind Julie Powell's inspiration for her year long cooking and blog experiment and one of the benefits of J&J being adapted for the silver screen was having Julia Child's own writing resurface for a fresh new audience of readers.

Both the book and half of the film featuring Child gives one the true sense of what this no nonsense yet sensitive woman experienced as she embraced savory sensations that lead her to her life's purpose and labored over the cook book that she collaborated on that change the culinary culture forever as well as maintain a supporting and loving relationship with family and friends. Julia Child made quite a few strides for women in her day as well as her profession,in an unselfconscious way that is still encouraging to many of us seeking our own path to personal joy:

No doubt a couple of you are saying "Come on,Lady T-it's not like Julia Child was some struggling housewife stuck in the slums there!" True,but both she and her husband were government employees and believe you me,that doesn't land you on easy street,folks. The main attraction about Child's life and times is that she was a substantive person with a strong sense of herself to begin with who just needed to find her niche,no small task during the fifties and early sixties either in Europe or America.

Strength of character is a compelling trait that makes one follow a fictional or based on a true story character into a narrative and encourages others to follow in their footsteps. Not every female in a foreign land book or film needs to have the depth of Out of Africa,for example,but you have to admit that substance does linger on longer than style in some cases:

So,while I hope everyone who wants to and gets to see Eat,Pray,Love at the movies this summer has a wonderful time,I think it's best that I sit this one out. If the film does drum up some business in a big way,more real life women on the road pictures may be heading our way from Hollywood and that may get some literary ladies well deserved screen time.

As for me(and maybe a few others out there),I'll keep my eyes open for that steady in her stride gal who is willing to share her story of how to get things going by going to explore new horizons on the world map.

Oddly enough,one of the books and films that did inspire me to visit England with a Jane Austen group several years ago was 84,Charing Cross Road whose author didn't get to meet the British bookseller she corresponded with before he passed away but thanks to the success of her book based on their letters,managed to see the England they both love. Slow and steady really can win the race,that's one of the things Helene Hanff taught me and a good lesson for all to learn:

1 comment:

joanna said...

I saw an Oprah show about the book too, and the thing that I remembered from it is that it's not as much about travelling to get away from your problems, but firstly about the courage of making a new start, of refusing the wave that takes you somewhere pleasant and warm, when you actually want something more intense. It's about the power to stray from the social norms that constrain you.