Amanda Seyfried seems to be stuck in a rut with a recent string of bland romantic comedies in which she plays wide-eyed young women in pursuit of love, and nothing's really changed with her latest film, Letters to Juliet, a syrupy romantic comedy that takes a page from the ultimate love-story playbook, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. But unlike the Elizabethan-era play, Letters unfolds as a perfectly pleasant story that's neither epic nor abysmal. Despite being set against inviting backdrops of aging villas and rolling countrysides, and being populated by charming locals, the story unfolds anticlimactically. The film starts off with a good premise, but takes entirely too long to get to the meat of the story, and while a film that promises romance should deliver on that concept, director Gary Winick fails to get the audience emotionally invested in the characters or their love lives.
Sophie (Seyfried), a twentysomething fact checker for The New Yorker, and her restaurateur fiancé, Victor (Gael García Bernal), travels to Verona, Italy, for their "pre-wedding honeymoon," where she meets a group of volunteers who respond to letters written to Juliet seeking romantic advice. After unearthing a letter that had been lost for 50 years, Sophie responds, only to be stunned when its author, Claire (Vanessa Redgrave), arrives in Italy with uptight grandson Charlie (Christopher Egan), to find her long lost love, Lorenzo Bartolini (played by Redgrave's real-life husband, Franco Nero). Fascinated by Claire's quest, Sophie accompanies them on a trek through the hills of Tuscany, where adventure awaits them.
The requisite hate-at-first-sight that transpires when Sophie meets Charlie, a cynic when it come to matters of the heart, truly rubs Sophie the wrong way, but also, as these stories go, turns her on; in theory this should make for a steamy romance, but in actuality it comes across as quite boring. Their chemistry seems to be lacking and, save for a single moonlight kiss on a grassy knoll, Seyfried and Egan's relationship falls flat. Still, between bright smiles and teary-eyed confessions, Amanda Seyfried is just darn likeable, and though her character lacks depth, the fact that she so strongly believes in true love is almost enough to make even the most hardened moviegoer want to believe.
For all of its sticking points, the film is saved by a radiant Vanessa Redgrave, who gives a graceful and poignant performance as the elegant Claire looking for her Italian beau, and adds some much-needed romance to this romantic comedy. The audience really roots for her, and when she inevitably finds her Lorenzo, the moment is touching and worth the wait. For a movie so predictable, you would think that screenwriters Jose Rivera and Tim Sullivan would come up with a new way to tell the same old story, but ultimately, while the concept of "true love" makes some roll their eyes, this film appeals to the hardcore believer.
Letters to Juliet on AllMovie
Letters to Juliet (2010)