Director: Gary Winick
Writer: Jose Rivera, Tim Sullivan
Cinematographer: Marco Pontecorvo
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Gael García Bernal, Vanessa Redgrave
Studio: Applehead Pictures
Needs a few rough drafts
Why didn’t anyone say that Letters to Juliet was a period film? Did a subtitle go missing? Letters to Juliet: Old Times Time Machine. Though it ostensibly takes place in 2010, the movie can’t seem to help but revel in romantic notions of yore—finding true love, following destiny, and employing actual, human receptionists at Condé Nast publications. So quaint!
The magazine in question is just The New Yorker, where Sophie Hall (Amanda Seyfried) is just a fact checker, she tells us. She’s a writer at heart. She and her chef fiance Victor (Gael García Bernal) are off to Verona, Italy to have what she hopes will be a pre-honeymoon, whatever that is, except the trip is actually for Victor to source ingredients for the restaurant he’s opening. Still, whenever he answers his phone or schedules an appointment, Sophie sighs away. She wants to see the sights.
Off she goes to investigate Juliet Capulet’s home where love-addled travelers leave letters that the so-called Secretaries of Juliet write back to. Sophie finds an old letter hidden in the wall and writes back. Something like 30 movie minutes later, Charlie (Christopher Egan), the curmudgeonly grandson of recipient Claire (Vanessa Redgrave), arrives from England with her. She wants to rekindle her old-timey missed connection. Naturally, Sophie joins the two perfect strangers on a long trip to find him, rolls her eyes at Victor’s goofy antics, and eventually falls for the impossibly bronzed Charlie, as she must (destiny, etc.).
Though unapologetically made in the gooey mold of a Chick Flick—whatever that is—Letters to Juliet redeems itself on occasion. Yes, Sophie is enamored with hopelessly puerile notions of true love and destiny (what all women want), but part of her destiny that she manifests through self-starting boldness and initiative is getting a story published in the bizarro New Yorker. That’s not nothing. And Vanessa Redgrave’s Claire is downright lovable throughout by way of her unceasing elegance, and how she embodies the same go-getter spirit. That the film’s plot is largely devoted to seeking out her senior citizen romantic love, and that she is allowed her own sexuality is also not nothing in a sea of Hollywood fare devoted to the alcohol-soaked, pelvis-thrusting sexual pursuits of youth.
On the whole, the use of a Taylor Swift song at the movie’s climax for the purpose of locking in a Romeo & Juliet theme is a telling testament to the cloying, juvenile conception of “love” floated throughout the movie. But in a handful of weighty instances, Letters to Juliet manages to rise above its own fluff.