In the third and final part of her bestselling travelogue, Elizabeth Gilbert returns to Bali, an island in the archipelagic center of Southeast Asia. Whereas her visit to Italy was the Eat part of her book, and her time in India was the Pray part, it is in Indonesia where she finds Love. It’s no wonder she’s subtitled the third part “Even in my underwear I feel different.”
Gilbert is no Ugly American. A 34-year-old divorcee on an odyssey of self-discovery, Gilbert stands out like a beacon in the darkness of Ugly Americanism. She is tall and blonde. She is frank and friendly. She is intelligent and inquisitive, open-minded and optimistic. She is by turns gutsy, confident and self-deprecating. She is eminently likable like Sandra Dee or Sandra Bullock. In sum, she is very American in the pop culture way many people who have watched American-made romantic comedies imagine Americans to be.
As a memoirist, the New Yorker is full of wit and full of ideas as easy to swallow as vanilla ice cream. She opens by painting an idyllic picture of Bali as a tourism paradise where every chore is easily accomplished even by the klutziest of Americans. Next she describes Ubud, the island’s capital of carving, painting and classical dance, as “a small Pacific version of Santa Fe” with monkeys.
In the movie version, starring the affable American Julia Roberts as the globe-trotting divorcee Liz Gilbert, the plot and dialogue seem to lack the verve of Gilbert’s prose. The best thing about the movie is watching voluptuous scenes of Bali flash by. It’s like being glued to one of TV’s worst shows, “Hawaii Five-O,” to catch a few gorgeous glimpses of Oahu.
Never mind. Let’s take the advice of the Balinese medicine man Ketut Liyer (played to perfection by actor Hadi Subiyanto):
“Smile with face. Smile with mind. Even smile with liver.”