Letters to Juliet (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
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Letters to Juliet (2010)

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Andrew DISLIKEBask as I tiptoe precariously around the tightly constructed web of Letters to Juliet.  It's another entry in this years Worst Romantic Comedies contest that, like it's fellow "winner" Leap Year, telegraphs it's intentions with such clarity you wonder why anyone could get anything from the film.  We have another fairytale scenario ending with the right people falling in love and everyone lives happily ever after.  There is hardly anything that separates this from any of the other romcom garbage that is littering the shelves.

The bar was set low earlier in 2010 with the irredeemably awful Leap Year, and Letters to Juliet doesn't do much to trifle with the formula.  Amanda Seyfried is completely wasted in the film as Sophie, a fact checker for The New Yorker with a workaholic fiancee Victor (the similarly wasted Gael Garcia Bernal).  First tip: if you're writing a script and you give the heroine a job that should be more inherently interesting than the plot of the film, trash the script and rethink your priorities.

These movies make the possibility of cheating on your spouse so very dull.

She keeps trying to get Victor to focus his attention away from his job as a restaurant owner and onto her.  So he comes up with the bright idea of flying the two of them out to Italy so that he can meet with all his suppliers.  They'll "...go, get a little tipsy, and then..."  Then what?  Time for tip number two: if there is no reason to think that two of the leads would spend much time together, much less be romantically involved, don't ask the audience to fill in the blanks on a sexless relationship.

So Sophie finds herself wandering away from Victor and comes across the secretaries of Juliet.  They're an eclectic bunch of Italians that write letters back to the heartbroken women that leave letters of loss and regret to a statue of the titular Shakespearean heroine.  Sophie gets involved in their letter writing shenanigans, uses her fact checking skills to locate the author of a fifty year old letter, and is shocked when the author and her grandson come to Italy to try and locate her lost love.

The old author is Claire, played by the always luminous Vanessa Redgrave, and is on the hunt for her old love.  The grandson is Charlie (Christopher Egan), a no-nonsense fuddy duddy that thinks true love is hogwash and is along just to help his grandmother.  Claire is so touched that Sophie would write back that she allows Sophie to tag along on her expedition and write about her journey.  The tension in Letters to Juliet comes from the intense dislike that Charlie and Sophie have for one another, slowly turning into intense glances across  stunning fields, each trying to deny what the audience has figured out from the first time they met.

Two talented actresses and a British man do not an intriguing combo make.

For those few people that can't figure out the surprise, or have a genuine wish to see the movie, I must lament that this well worn cliche is still in practice.  Granted, those guilty looks are separated by some stunning Italian landscape, and the early scenes of food and wine made me long for the dreamy bliss of alcoholism.  There are also a couple of nice moments with Seyfried where she uses a bit of subtle acting to hint at just how horrible some of the decisions made by these characters really are.  But those moments don't detract from the cut and paste nature of the film.

Really, what is so wrong with passion?  No one in this film seems to actually possess it.  Yes, Claire comes back after fifty years and Sophie wrestles against her biological instincts.  But both relationships are portrayed with the uncomfortable emotion of first cousins that shared an awkward kiss many years ago.  There's no spark, no life, no reason to think that these people would spend years, months, days together just to stare really hard.

So if you're looking for a barometer - Leap Year is at the bottom, Letters to Juliet is ahead but still bad, and When In Rome actually succeeded in making me chuckle even if the movie was not that good.  Tip #3: how about we allocate talent to projects that aren't about sexually desolate people finding buddy-buddy love?

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Letters to Juliet (2010)

Directed by Gary Winick.
Written by Jose Rivera and Tim Sullivan.
Starring Amanda Seyfried, Christopher Egan, Vanessa Redgrave and Gael Garcia Bernal.

Posted by Andrew

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