“Letters to Juliet” is surprisingly not as awful as I had thought it would be, I suspect many people will thoroughly like it despite it’s shortcomings of obvious setups and payoffs. I’m no stranger to chick-flicks or good romance stories, “The Notebook” and “Notting Hill” are among some of my favorite rainy day films, so don’t discount my critic point-of-view as nothing more than guy-hate towards girly movies.
Why you’ll like this:
Light-hearted; great scenery
Amanda Seyfried stars as Sophie who has been engaged for a year to Victor (played by Gael Garcia Bernal), a budding Italian restaraunt owner in New York City and they decide to take a pre-wedding vacation to Italiy. Sophie works for The New Yorker as a fact-checker but aspires to upgrade to full-fledged contributor, so she is instantly intrigued by a wall in Italy where women of all ages write letters to Juliet, of Shakespearean lore, and there’s a group of wiser women who collect the letters and write back as the fabled star-crossed lover giving sage wisdom. Sophie uncovers a fifty year-old letter and writes back which invokes a journey with an elderly woman, Claire, and her grandson Charlie, this quest takes them in search of the lost love of Claire’s life.
I suppose one of the things I actually appreciated about “Letters to Juliet” is that they didn’t make Sophie’s fiancee a complete jerk so much as a self-involved hard working jerk, the difference is subtle and mostly pulled off by the fantastic Gael Garcia Bernal, who manages to make his character both likeable yet not enough for Sophie. On the other side of the coin is the obvious “they hate each other so much, oh look, they’re growing closer” setup of Charlie. Yawn. The humor is also rather blunt, though it’s far short of flatulence jokes, it’s still rather on-the-nose in terms of cleverness and wit.
The biggest surprise for me was that there were actually a few genuine moments, where the movie takes its time to allow the moment to happen rather than rush through it like so many romantic comedies. So a big kudos for spending a few more minutes to earn some authentic emotional points. There was also no way to not love the photography here, shot on location in Italy it was probably as easy as pointing the camera, but none the less it’s gorgeous and shot with lots of amazing countryside. The soundtrack is okay, utilizing Taylor Swift where appropriate. As far as audio goes I was taken aback by the final scene with some extremely poor ADR work, but I think I was the only one who noticed.
Why you won’t like this:
Simple, not very clever; cookie cutter
While the setup and payoff can be spotted a mile away, everyone involved is still rather competent and makes this not quite a task to watch, but that hardly is qualification for excellence. I suspect many girls will love this, and many guys will find it bareable if not enjoyable, but it should not come up in conversation as anything close to other romantic films like “Far and Away”, “A Walk in the Clouds” or even “Serendipity”. Between good scenery and a variety of Italian characters there’s plenty to keep you entertained, even if it’s a little on the shallow side of character development and creative story.
2.5 out of 5 Stars.
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Gael Garcia Bernal, Christopher Egan, Vanessa Redgrave
Director: Gary Winick
Genre: Romance, Comedy
Running Time: 1 hr. 53 min.
Release Date: May 14, 2010