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Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love vs. the Real Bali

If you take a walk around Ubud these days and pop into its many cafes, you will notice a trend. There are many women there who are on a similar journey as Elizabeth Gilbert took in her now famous book turned movie, Eat, Pray, Love.

While Bali is certainly not an unheard of destination, there are still many people who don’t know enough about it to ever justify a trip here. Many were hoping that it would (and also many were hoping that it wouldn’t) expose Bali to the rest of the world that had been turning a blind eye towards the island until this point.

Did the movie really do the Island of the Gods justice though?


In a word yes, the film was much more watchable than I thought it would be. I haven’t read the book (and probably wouldn’t if I was paid to), but I was quite surprised that I was able to sit through the whole two and a half hours of it.

Admittedly, it was a bit long and I spent most of the time anticipating the section about Bali, although the fact that the movie began in Bali helped a lot to hold my interest through the middle parts. The movie had some amazing scenery throughout, although the sceneries shown in Bali definitely overshadowed anything they showed of Julia Roberts in America, Italy or India.

This will definitely do a great job at piquing the interest of people who may never have considered Bali as a future destination. I did have a few bones to pick with the movie, most minor and some very small, but they were there nonetheless.

  • First of all, while I believe just about all of the extras in the movie were played by Balinese, none of the Balinese main characters, like Ketut and Wayan were actually played by Balinese actors or actresses, instead by Indonesian actors and actresses from other areas of the archipelago. Of course the amount of Balinese actors and actresses available is much slimmer than that of Jakarta, but it did detract a bit of the genuine Bali feel from the movie.
  • Another small similar bit was during the scene where Ketut was trying to cure the crying baby who was “tormented by a demon”, he was chanting in Javanese and not Balinese. Probably not something that many people were able to pick up on, but again something that took away a bit of authenticity.
  • During the many scenes of Julia Roberts riding her bicycle around various points of Bali, there is a scene of her riding through the lower level of the Monkey Forest in Ubud. Anyone who has ever been there could instantly recognize the spot (down the long set of stairs and near the large fish pond to the right), and would know that getting a bicycle down there would just never happen.
  • Maybe it was an effort in trying to be true to the book (wouldn’t know, not having read it), but the larger woman around Ketut’s place was much ruder and less welcoming than almost any Balinese woman I have ever encountered. That character put a negative overtone on the women of Bali in the film, who are usually very sweet and inviting.

Overall though, I think the film was much better than I thought it was going to be. It focused more on the overall character development during her time in Bali, rather than the island of Bali, which we probably all would have liked to see more of, but we are probably biased in that way.

It will definitely work to drive more people to Bali, although if it will drive the right sort of people to Bali is another matter entirely and totally up to everyone’s individual opinion.

One Response to Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love vs. the Real Bali

  1. Do read the book – the movie is a pretty illustration of the journey the author took but the book is the journey itself. I would especially recommend the audiobook read by Elizabeth Gilbert herself.
    I haven’t been neither to India, nor to Bali but the three locations (Italy, India, Indonesia) play an equally important role in the life of the author and symbolize the different needs that she had during her discovery.

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