Letters to Juliet
Amanda Seyfried has a future in show business. She has this future because she is a likeable character, a beautiful woman, and a talented actress. Her new film LETTERS TO JULIET, is not based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, which is usually the main draw for romantic movies these days, and since I still saw pretty decent sized crowds for this new movie this weekend, I can attribute at least a little bit of that audience to her. She has used her big, beautiful eyes create characters that women can care about and not feel threatened by, a trait that the uber-gorgeous Megan Fox will never have, but one she doesn’t really care to have either, as long as she keeps getting huge paychecks from the action movies she does (and yes, I will be watching her closely in JONAH HEX). But with her likeability and acting chops (recently showcased in her great role in CHLOE), Amanda Seyfried is working on a faithful audience that could rival some of the big name actresses in Hollywood, even with mediocre fare like LETTERS FROM JULIET.
In LETTERS TO JULIET, we are taken to Verona, Italy, city of “Romeo and Juliet.” In that city there is a wall where women of all ages write and post letters to the fictional Juliet, telling her or their heartaches and various romantic trials, and four random Italian women, calling themselves The Secretaries of Juliet, answer these letters. Amanda Seyfried plays Sophie, a young New Yorker taking a pre-honeymoon trip to Verona with her fiancée, the obnoxious and unlikable Gael Garcia Bernal (I might be biased, though. I dated a girl once who thought he was just the most beautiful man alive), and she stumbles across the secretaries, finds a 50 year old letter lodged deep in the wall and writes back to the author. Said author is a British grandmother, Claire, played with playfulness and youth by Vanessa Redgrave, who comes to Verona with her handsome but skeptical grandson, Charlie (Christopher Egan), to find her one true love, Lorenzo Bertolini. Problem is, the relationship occurred 50 years ago and Lorenzo Bertolini in Italy is apparently like John Smith in the US of A, so Sophie tags along to make sure she gave good advice, and to chronicle the story as she wishes to be a contributing author to The New Yorker. Yes, The New Yorker. Eventually, as they meet the various Lorenzo’s of Italy, Charlie falls for Sophie, and vice versa, but Sophie is spoken for, so how can these kids make it work? And will Claire ever meet her true love, the real Lorenzo Bartolini. These are the questions that unfold in the story, most of which were answered in the previews.
The problem is the middle part of the story, which seems to drag on for an eternity. The characters are likeable enough, though Charlie’s eventual relaxation from his British, prudish skepticism is contrived, and Vanessa Redgrave is a great woman to root for finding her true love. I was annoyed every time Bernal was onscreen, but that might have been the goal, since we’re supposed to be rooting for Charlie and Sophie. There is some Shakespeare quotes, but not too many, and an obligatory balcony scene, but the obligation is commented on, so the ending wraps everything up very well, but it’s that middle part that drags the movie out and takes away from what could be a compelling romance. But Seyfried does great in this part, because we root for her, we like watching her, and women can relate to her.