Standing outside of the Ziegfeld theater, where security directed me away from the tent-covered, poster-lined impenetrable red carpet, I realized: This movie is a big deal. Bestseller! Huge stars! Julia Roberts.
Yesterday afternoon, my friend texted me he had an extra ticket to the premiere of Eat Pray Love, and I wrote back, "Count me in." But I hardly realized what I'd agreed to.
The scene was set up so that the mere plebes and press attending the film could not see or get on or gawk at the red carpet. At all. And I tried; seeing Hollywood Movie Star Julia Roberts at a premiere was something I sort of wanted to check off of my list. Still, the buzz in the air was exciting; women were wearing evening gowns and cocktail dresses, and I regretted not changing out of my flip-flops. But once we were upstairs, there was free popcorn and diet Pepsi, and the Ziegfeld is gorgeous. Plus: Josh Brolin was sitting across one the edge of the row across the aisle and one row behind me. He was chatting up various people seated around him, and looking dashing in a suit accessorized by a scruffy beard.
"I didn't read the book," I confessed to my friend. He informed me that he'd seen a galley of a soon-to-hit-stores book called Eat, Prey, Love — romance with a shapeshifter! I commented that that seemed more up my alley.
All the while, though, I was looking for Julia. Julia Roberts was in the building. When there was some hubub in the middle section of the theater, a few rows from the front, I craned my neck — but it was Elizabeth Gilbert, in a ruffled confection of a dress.
I checked on Brolin again. He turned away from me and waved, and I saw that his hello was for Javier Bardem, taking his seat down the row. But scanning the crowd as the lights went down, Julia was nowhere to be found. "She must have so many obligations," I whispered to my friend. "So many hands to shake, sound bites to give." I was really trying to convince myself. He nodded. "I think she just does a bunch of TV spots on the carpet — she doesn't even talk to the magazines or online outlets standing out there."
The movie began. Right away, there was a gorgeous shot of Bali, and we were swept away. As I watched Julia Roberts — as Elizabeth Gilbert — traveling, eating, praying and loving, I couldn't help but start my own self-reflection, questioning and digging; thinking about my own barely-suppressed existential crises. I found myself going through, catalogging, relabeling, dividing, deciding which mistakes were actually choices and vice versa.
The wheels in my mind would not stop turning: Does anyone ever truly know happiness? Peace? Satisfaction? How long does that last? How do you live, love, meditate and party in Bali without a job?
I looked back at Josh Brolin, who was mesmerized.
The movie felt long, as though the year abroad had actually passed — but it was enjoyable. A mini-vacation, somewhere between a foodie flick and travelogue. Julia's character is likeable, despite herself, and when Julia's face — wide-mouthed, luminous, raw, beautiful — fills the screen, you feel like you're having a moment with an old friend. The story had charm and warmth. Lo, the warmth! Streaming golden sunlight permeated scene after scene. But if you took a shot of Sambuca every time a brown person said something insightful or wise, you'd have to be carted to the hospital an hour in, and treated for severe alcohol poisoning.
Seriously, though: The moral I took away is that if you can't be happy in Bali with Javier Bardem you have major, major issues.
As the credits rolled I turned to give Josh Brolin a secretive smile, but he was gone. "Never trust an edge sitter," my friend advised.
We were herded toward buses, waiting to take us to the afterparty, surely being held somewhere glittery and/or ethnic, but my friend and I both decided not to get on the bus. As I thanked my friend for the invite and hugged him goodbye, suddenly a chorus of voices pleaded, JULIA! JULIA! We turned and saw the backside of a tanned lady in a pantsuit — underneath which, it was clear from the unnatural smoothness, she was wearing Spanx or control top hose — step into a shiny black SUV. Julia was gone. It was time to go home.