"Eat, Pray, Love" isn't a great movie, but it's O.K. And it is number three at the box office three weeks after opening, which is darn good—right behind "Vampires Suck" (#2) and "The Expendables" (#1), which makes sense because impending exes can be emotional vampires who you eventually realize are expendable.
One problem with the movie is that the character is probably supposed to be in her early 30s, yet has a twenty-something mindset: "Why doesn't my husband like hotel-room mini bars? Why is he so annoying? Don't you hate that? How do you know if you want children?"
Angst about what? She wasn't in the 'burbs long enough to get to know them or be suffocated. No decades of investment in a relationship. No career slipping away while you raise children. No body changing shape.
And that divorce—was it me, or did it look like a quickie compared to most of ours? Don't you wish your ex had shown up in the conference room without an attorney and sang songs? Pay dirt!
In my dream scene: Push the papers in front of him, put a pen in his hand, and in between the high notes, tell him it's a music contract, show him where the big X is.
As soon at the papers are signed, of course, Julia Robert's gorgeous Liz is back in Manhattan, and then traveling and reflecting. Reflecting?
Reflect on this
What if Liz were recast to be more meaningful to women over 40 and 50? She could be coming off her divorce as a wound-up, multi-tasking suburban mother. She could have a perimenopause book by her bed, be looking for a job in journalism (super idea!), and have a teenage son who wants more sneakers.
And since she'd still be a New Yorker, with a kid waiting for her, she'd do three countries in three weeks, not one year, because who's got the time, and who's really got that kind of money?
New Liz is starting to feel her power. Get rewrite on the phone!
Part One: ["Eat"–change to:] Bite Me
Location: Somewhere in Westchester County
Scene One: Liz paces her house at night, worried she hates the suburbs and the fact that her husband is played by Billy Crudup. She drops to her knees, begs, "Please God, give me a sign. Tell me what to do, and I'll do it."
Rewrite: God says: You want a sign? How about a $6.95 sage stick from Whole Foods to clear the negativity out of the house and the two of you? Mission accomplished. [extra-God-like voice] Now, "Go back to bed, Liz." And when you do, sleep on your back. Because take it from me, once you turn 40, if you sleep on your side, you get lines on that side of your face. And your lower lashes get thin from decades of being crammed into a pillowcase. You know what I'm saying?
Location: Interior, Attorney's glass conference room
Scene Two: Husband shows up without an attorney, sings a capella at the top of his lungs to torment Liz and her attorney. They argue. He bellows. Liz offers him everything.
Rewrite: Liz says: You think you're freaking me out? You remember how crazy our neighbors went when we put up our fence? I got all six of them under control in under a month. Bring it, buster. You'll be lucky if you get half my empty Saks Fifth Avenue shoe boxes with this attitude.
[Billy stops talking.]
Location: Rome, Interior, Coffee Bar
Scene Three: Liz is muscled out of getting a cappuccino by a crowd of Italian men, ignored by the barista. A Swedish pixie takes over, getting her and Liz (who is demurely impressed) cappuccinos and Napoleons.
Rewrite: Liz says: Yo! Sweetcake! Yeah, you! I'm talking to you. You wanna give me my cappuccino right now, before I bust out my new Opium spray atomizer from Bloomie's that makes this mob look like boo-hoo day at pre-K, and spray it all over you and everyone here?! A-a-a-n-d, I want doo-ay cappuccinos or whatever right now. I'll have a plate of Napoleons and a plate of cannoli, too. [taxi whistle] Hey, Swedish pixie! What can I get you?.... [Back to the barista] Now be a nice young man and turn off the soccer game, honey. It's too rowdy.
Location: Interior, beautiful bed
Scene Four: Liz, lithe and wistful, is lying in a beautiful bed, in a nightgown, translating for the thousandth time, "I am lonely" into Italian.
Rewrite: Liz is lying in bed in a big T-shirt, a plate of pignoli cookies balanced on her stomach, saying, "Sono sola"? You better believe I'm sola. Who's idea was it to come here alone and sublimate with food? Why can't I get a phone session with Dr. Feldman? Sono SO not wanting to fill out this E-Disharmony questionnaire. My friend just got back from an E-date with a guy who said he was a Shetland pony in a former life. But he doesn't smoke, says he's spiritual but not religious, and lives within a 50-mile radius of her home, which reminds me of the uninsured tight-rope walker that Catch.com set me up with that was a non-smoking, spiritual, easy drive. Cosmic?
Part Two: ["Pray"—change to:] From My Lips to God's Ears
Location: India, an ashram
Scene Five: Richard From Texas is nagging Liz to get back in the meditation room to practice focusing her mind.
Rewrite: Liz gives Richard the name of her favorite Nordstrom salesperson/stylist at The Westchester Mall in White Plains, and advises him to stop wearing winter scarves with a T-shirt and shorts, especially when it's 110 degrees. Tells him that if he calls her "Groceries" one more time, she's going to tape one of those "I am in silence" tags across his mouth. Then Liz rearranges Richard's scarf so that it looks more casually chic, less nuts—and shows him how.
Liz then takes her place in the meditation room, looks at the clock. Go! "Please God, have my ex and his attorney dropped off in the Sahara without a canteen or shoes. Please God, have my ex and his attorney dropped off in the Sahara without a…" Time? 30 seconds. Done! That's half a New York minute. Good enough. And that's progress, since Liz no longer includes the last half of her prayer.
Part Three ["Love"—change to:] It's a Start, But Before We Proceed Any Further I Need to Have You Checked Out By Dr. Feldman and Three Select Friends Across the U.S.
Location: Bali, Four-star digs, an open-air suite
Scene Six: Liz is strolling a market, charmed to be told by Brazilian Felipe which fruit—the durian—tastes like smelly feet.
Rewrite: [Liz's cell phone rings.] Just a sec. That's my son. No, you cannot come meet me here. I need some "me" time. I'm sorry, but that's what the family therapist said, remember? Yes, I bought you sneakers from every country. Besides, how would you get here? What else have you put on your father's card? He's got a platinum card now? I've got to get off the phone and meditate. Here, Felipe, hold the durian until I get back.
Location: The beach, a docked boat is fully loaded with food and wine
Scene Seven: Felipe covers Liz's eyes, leads her toward the boat, uncovers her eyes and chirps, "Surprise! I want to take you away for a few days! Right now! Get in! This is it! This is it! Tell me, Liz: Do you love me? Or do you love me not?"
Rewrite: Liz says: First off, what's with the non-stop samba soundtrack. Second, I am not a daisy. Thirdly, recently you told me, "It's time," right before we made love. Now it's, "This is it?" We can work together on longer sentences that are not declarative statements—you know me and my love of words. For instance, attra-tappan-zee-iamo, my favorite Italian word, with the romantic "Ah" sound, the thrilling Tappanzee traffic-backed-up-all-the-way-to-287 feeling, and the "iamo" for –how long is this freaking word?
But I have a career to think about, and I'm right in the middle of a story on "How I Came To Love the Sahara," and I'm not giving up my work for anybody, ever again. So, get in your boat, watch out for sharks, and make sure your cell phone is charged. When you come back, I'll be ready for some R&R, we'll restock and, sure, I'll go with you, you cassette-tape-making hottie, just the two of us. Why not?
So give me a kiss. This is going to be wonderful. And—say, what's that speck on the horizon? [The speck lopes comes closer and closer; has big feet, white cords dangling from both ears, then waves and shouts something.] What was that? Sounded like, "Mall!" Or maybe it was—You know what, Felipe, I can finish that story later. Grab your tapes and let's go.
Medium shot of the beach and water
Credits Roll: Love birds Liz and Felipe speed across the water in their boat. Rewrite: The boat lurches from the dock; Liz's teen waits confidently on the beach, bobbing his shoulders to music, as the boat circles back to get him.
Credits Roll One More Time as the three of them speed across the water toward what could have been a romantic getaway.
Katherine Ann Samon is the author of four books, including "Dates From Hell" and "Ranch House Style." Her column, "Woman of a Certain Age," about starting over and enjoying life after 40, will appear twice a month on Rye Patch and Larchmont-Mamaroneck Patch. Katherine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.