Thursday, October 28, 2010

Letters to Juliet

Know that Letters to Juliet is a soppy melodrama, which I don’t mind in the least. Although the ending is preordained and pretty obvious since the start, it’s quite touching in the very least.

In it we meet young Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), a fact checker who is vacationing in Verona, Italy on a sort of “pre-honeymoon” with her fiancé, Victor (Gael García Bernal).  He’s is a passionate chef more interested in the local cuisine than in Sophie and leaves her to roam the city while he is off traipsing the countryside in search of the perfect truffle.

While wandering, Sophie stumbles upon the supposed home of Juliet Capulet (this is where it gets all sappy) and finds a herd of lovelorn women pining away beneath the famous Shakespearean balcony where Romeo first called up to his true love.  The custom is to leave a note on the wall asking Juliet for advice (do these damsels even know how the Romeo and Juliet ended) and Sophie is moved to find a group of local women who have made it their duty to collect the letters and answer each of them.

Sophie decides to help them and, while gathering the letters, finds one behind a rock that is dated more than fifty years ago.  Sophie answers the letter and Claire (Vanessa Redgrave), the woman who had left the note hidden there all those years ago, soon returns to Italy to seek for her lost love, the elusive Lorenzo.  Along their journey through the luscious hills of Tuscany, Sophie begins to fall for Claire’s abrasive grandson, Charlie (Christopher Egan), and begins to wonder if destiny has played a role in her finding true happiness as well.
And I’m sure you all know that whole “Men Are from Mars, Women are From Venus” thing? That’s Letters to Juliet. It has nothing to do with the difference between men and women in terms of plotting or story, but how it will split the opposing sexes right down the middle.

Women will see this as an endearing love story, showing there is no doubt true love will always be found despite time, distance, and place. It’s meant to be, and it will happen, but you have to go for it.
On the other hand, a male will be on the opposing side. They see an engaged woman named Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) taking a trip to Italy with her fiance Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal), a sort of pre-honeymoon/business trip to help him find suppliers for his new restaurant. This woman is completely uninterested in his hard work opening a new restaurant in the middle of New York, goes off on her own, starts kissing another guy, and breaks off the whole marriage.

There is plenty of beauty in Letters to Juliet.  Seyfried, looking at times like a young Goldie Hawn, is likable and lovely.  The film was shot almost entirely on location, and the gorgeous Italian cities and stunning countryside create a perfect backdrop that sets the mood for this romance.  Bernal is hilarious as Sophie’s pre-occupied fiancé and portrays Victor’s passion for food and wine with a turbo-charged zeal.
However, the soul of the film is Redgrave who plays Claire with innocence and dignity that makes this story a tad better than the archetypical samples of the genre.  You instantly begin to feel a certain pull for her and want nothing more than for her to find her Lorenzo.  It is invigorating to see a romance movie that doesn’t merely involve perfect-looking twenty-somethings falling in love or dealing with the tragedies that author Nicholas Sparks has made the standard with forced films like Dear John (also starring Seyfried) and The Last Song.

But there are some trappings that the film can’t overcome.  The love story involving Sophie and Charlie is two-dimensional and there are a few too many “happy coincidences” (double quotes there) in what is simply lazy storytelling.  The film becomes predictable and the end drags and sputters a little, but by the time the credits roll you get what you came for.

When it comes to getting that warmth, Letters to Juliet delivers.
Cheesy, I know, deal with it.


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