As many of you know, I’m a thousand times more likely to read five reviews of a film than actually see it in the theater.  But somehow I managed to dodge all the coverage of Eat Pray Love and sneak off to see it with my friend Shana on its opening night.

First, the good news:  The cinematography was beautiful, Julia Roberts played a very convincing Liz, and Javier Bardem was y-u-m-m-y.

But somehow the adaptation process turned an insightful, thoroughly inspiring, well-told story into an overly sweet, non-sensical mash up of movie clips.  It was like a rock skipping over water, hitting the plot at various points, but not really connecting the dots.

Examples: While Julia Roberts did a great job of portraying the actual flip out, the viewer is given no insight on why Liz feels she must suddenly end her marriage.  The animal magnetism of the rebound boyfriend did not translate at all (James Franco?  Really?), and the deep well-reasoned argument that Liz provides in the book for taking the year off is nowhere to be found.  And that’s all before she ever even sets foot in Italy. 

The India part of the movie dragged out a bit, and the Bali part came dangerously close to being a stand-alone romantic comedy (note: not a compliment).

To do a book like this justice, it should have been made into a trilogy, allowing time to really explore the nuances each journey, and more importantly, how they all fit together.  Three movies may sound like overkill, but it’s a powerful story with universal appeal, and if done correctly, it would have worked (think Jason Bourne and Frodo Baggins).

There was a trilogy’s worth of hype, too.  Lonely Planet created an EPL travel guide, Fresh has a line of perfumes and scented candles inspired by Liz, and if you google “eat pray love hotel package”, you’ll see that hotels across the country are doing EPL-themed events all over the country.  When people unconnected to a film (or product, or anything) start doing your advertising for you, you know you’ve got some serious brand awareness.  What a waste! 

And now if you’ll excuse me, I have some film reviews to read…