Monday, April 08, 2013

Review: Letters to Juliet

What do I do on Saturdays when catching up on sleep lost during the week? I watch movies, drifting in and out of REM sleep.

Last weekend I watched Letters to Juliet with Amanda Seyfried. I remember her as the frothy blonde daughter of Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia, which is a review for another time, and decided to watch the movie. I had nothing better to do. Right?

Sophie is a fact checker for The New Yorker magazine and she wants to write feature stories but she's afraid to ask her boss. She is also engaged to a budding restauranteur named Victor who is all about the restaurant -- even on their pre-honeymoon honeymoon in Verona, Italy where romance hungry Sophie wants to spend time with her fiance in a romantic spot while Victor just wants to check out the local ingredients and wines for his Italian restaurant. Not a good way to spend a honeymoon. Victor goes his way and Sophie ends up at the wall of Juliet Capulet's home looking at women writing letters and putting them on the wall asking Juliet for advice on their love lives.

Sophie is intrigued when she sees women pulling down the letters and taking them away in a huge basket. They are Juliet's secretaries and they answer the lovelorn and heart broken women's letters. Victor's still traveling the countryside and going to wine auctions, so Sophie is free to do as she pleases. She pleases to help the women answer the letters to Juliet, which is where the story becomes interesting. Up to this point, the plot is thin and the story pretty pedestrian. Hopeful young bride-to-be is far down her fiance's to do list and looks for something to fill her time.

When Sophie finds a letter 50 years old stuck between the bricks of Juliet's wall, that's when things get interesting, and the story moves along a bit faster.

Charlie Smith is the grandson of Claire Smith who wrote the letter to Juliet when she was 15 and longing to know if she should be with Lorenzo Bartolini or follow her family's plans for her and return to England. Claire got Sophie's answer and has come to Verona to find her Lorenzo, much to Charlie's dismay. He doesn't approve and he tells Sophie so. Claire is determined to find her Lorenzo and apologize for being such a coward. Charlie doesn't approve. Sophie loves the idea and sees their journey as the heart of a story she wants to write. And the journey is on.

Amanda Seyfried is lovely and bubbly and hopelessly romantic, but there is a bit of acid in her bite as Sophie, especially when dealing with Charlie. She is less assertive when dealing with her absent fiance or her boss at The New Yorker.

Gael Garcia Bernal as Victor is enthusiastic and completely unaware of Sophie during their pre-honeymoon honeymoon, although he does urge her to talk to her editor at the magazine and tell him she wants to write not just check facts.

Christopher Egan is gorgeous and blond and very definitely an angry and put out Charlie defending his aging grandmother's feelings. He is equally convincing arguing with Sophie as he is falling for Sophies prickly charms.

The real gem of Letters to Juliet is the very real love story of Vanessa Redgrave (Claire) and Franco Nero (Lorenzo Bartolini). So real is their first sight of each other that no mere theatricality could compare.

Vanessa and Franco were lovers following the filming of Camelot where she played Guinevere and he played Lancelot du Lac, the complication in King Arthur's idyllic reign. Vanessa and Franco parted and met again a few decades later only to fall in love again and have remained together. Their real life romance was the perfect complement to the feel good quality of this predictable romantic movie (that's chick flick to the guys). Franco Nero riding into the vineyard on a horse and Vanessa Redgrave pale with fear becaise she is no longer 15 years old and Lorenzo won't recognize her is the stuff of dreams. The sparks and the romance colaesce into a beautiful romantic dream that makes Letters to Juliet so much better.

Letters to Juliet is predictable and a bit formulaic with moments of pure romance that make this movie a winner. Definitely two thumbs up. Now I have to get the book and read it.

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