Genre: Romantic Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 45 min.
Release Date: May 14th, 2010 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Gary Winick Actors: Amanda Seyfried, Vanessa Redgrave, Gael Garcia Bernal, Franco Nero, Christopher Egan
erhaps the target audience will revel in the overdramatic and sappily romantic reflections on the magical divinity of true love. Those that have seen anything beyond contemporary examples might not be as easily impressed or as willing to succumb to the simplistic messages so mercilessly beaten into their heads. The premise is appropriate and the drama does work better than the comedy, though the monotony is only broken up by the jarring realization of how the humor is so ineffective. At least Amanda Seyfriend is perfect for films like this, with her big eyes constantly appearing as if on the verge of shedding tears.
A fact-checker for the New Yorker, Sophie (Amanda Seyfriend) wishes to become a journalist but has yet to reveal her talents to her boss. Traveling to Verona with her fiancé Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal) for a pre-honeymoon vacation, Sophie happens upon the perfect subject for her debut article – a true love story 50 years in the making. Discovering the “Secretaries of Juliet,” a group of women who writes letters in response to those left by the broken-hearted, Sophie is compelled to respond to a letter from Claire (Vanessa Redgrave), a woman who left her first true love five decades ago. Against her skeptical son Charlie’s (Christopher Egan) advice, Claire meets with Sophie and the trio embarks on a quest to find her long lost love. As their search draws ever closer to both heartbreak and hope, Sophie must decipher her own mixed feelings when she begins to fall for Charlie.
From the opening credits montage compiled from paintings and photographs of lovers kissing, to the painfully contrived conclusion completely given away by the theatrical trailers, “Letters to Juliet” can’t avoid being hopelessly predictable. The premise didn’t have to be so terribly generic, especially concerning the progression of Sophie and Charlie’s romance, which fails to find unique legs to stand on (save for a tepid ice cream fight). First they despise each other; then they fall in love, only to be separated by a prior engagement. Oddly, the fact that they live in New York and London, respectively, isn’t given any realistic consideration. “Letters to Juliet” puts so much effort into creating forced situations that will eventually lead to the right people ending up together (often called destiny), that the plot grows tiresome and the relationships feel unbelievably fake.
The largest fault in the film is the portrayal of Victor, the half-hearted rival love interest. The problem is he was with Sophie first – and he isn’t such a bad guy. So how can she rightfully leave him to pursue Charlie? A number of things could have happened to prevent Sophie from looking like the cheat, but the film opted instead for the easy way out, which is also the unlikely, unconvincing way out. It laughably paints Victor to be an uncaring egocentric, concerned more with fancy food and his restaurant (“Just don’t call it a mushroom!”) than his fiancée. Too bad he didn’t start that way – even when she admits that her feelings have changed, it seems like she hasn’t given him a chance. What sincere romantic drama can have any success when the two leads don’t seem genuinely right for one another?
– The Massie Twins