Directed by: Gary Winick Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Vanessa Redgrave, Christopher Egan, Gael Garcia Bernal Running Time: 1 hr 30 mins Rating: PG Release Date: May 14, 2010
PLOT: A young woman on her honeymoon (Seyfried) helps an elderly woman (Redgrave) find her old Italian flame from 50 years ago. Along for the ride is the woman’s dreamy grandson (Egan), who can’t stomach the romantic journey because he’s “not a big believer of happy endings.”
WHO'S IT FOR?: For those who think "Romeo and Juliet" is not about pain, but instead about meeting some sort of Prince Charming.
EXPECTATIONS: Back in February, I had nightmares about this one time I saw one of the worst trailers in recent memory for this movie called Letters to Juliet. Shamelessly, the preview laid out all three acts of the film, as if the final product wasn’t going to seem any less obvious. Now, months later, I was afraid that this flick was out for vengeance, in a Freddy Krueger-like fashion.
Amanda Seyfried as Sophie: Despite being the core of this story, she is handled with the least cheese. Seyfried’s only slightly schmaltzy existence offers a little light to this dim picture. With such vibrancy she makes some of the scenes that feel unbearable slightly digestible. Were it not for someone like her, her co-stars would have to fend for themselves with their fairytale background. When the movie is originally about her American girl venture into Italy, it is the most sincere, even if her character has less faults than most real human beings should. Score: 5
Vanessa Redgrave as Claire: Fine with being the Gandalf to this fantastical journey, she guides the young Sophie through her own journey into “La-La-Love You” land that later inspires a romantic subplot even more drenched in Parmesan cheese than the first. Like a good apprentice, Sophie has the best chemistry with her, but in the same way, they are both students of the same ludicrous school of thought. Claire’s journey through Italy to find the exact “Lorenzo Bartolini” of her past is exaggerated and cheap, just like her. Score: 3
Christopher Egan as Charlie: A few years ago in the Coen Brothers’ Burn After Reading, Dermot Mulroney parodied this archetype that pretends to be heartfelt here. A walking joke, he can’t play uptight non-romantic or wannabe slapstick clown without being a total bi-polar goober, or a person that we could only consider charming because of his accent. He further adds to the cheesy fantasy of the story, especially when digging up dead romantic clichés like this humdinger – “I am madly, deeply, truly, passionately in love with you.” Score: 2
Gael Garcia Bernal as Victor: This putz is embarrassingly one-dimensional. Even when he goes on a honeymoon, his lust is unreasonably directed more towards food than it is getting romantic with Seyfried’s character. He says “I feel horrible” a lot, which makes him infinitely more annoying than endearing or even adorably misguided. Is this really how Bernal wanted to break into American romantic comedies? This actor/writer can co-pen a good script, one could only assume he’d have the eyes for a terrible one also. Score: 3
TALKING: The bits of Italian spoken in the movie are rarely given subtitles, but most of the movie is in some garbage dialect that I don’t think can be translated. Someone actually says the line, “Do you believe in destiny?” and Redgrave says one of the most head-scratching lines ever – “One of the great joys in life is having one’s hair brushed.” Then, after Token British Guy falls off the side of a house and lands on his back, she asks him, “Can you move?” He smiles, and not dying on the ground, says, “Only my lips.” The two lock faces, and I hadn’t felt my gag reflex tested that much since that time I brushed my teeth too aggressively. Score: 2
SIGHTS: Some authentic views of Italy are offered in landscape shots. If they’re not real, well, then I’ve been fooled. Score: 3
SOUNDS: The soundtrack consists mostly of Italian pop songs you’ve never heard, nor will ever recognize, along with a handful of American pop tunes. Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” is given the dragged out treatment during the “emotional” romantic climax of the movie, and Colbie Caillat’s new song “What If?” wraps everything up during the credits. As for the score, it’s guilty of swelling up to add syrup to the corniness. Score: 5
BEST SCENE: The chorus to Colbie Caillat’s song “What If?" There is no equal warmness provided by the rest of the movie's entirety.
ENDING: Thinking that she has died, he decides to drink poison. Then, when she finds out that he died thinking she had kicked the bucket, she stabs herself with a sword. Hey, a guy can dream, right?
QUESTIONS: Afterward I thought to myself, "Will this be shown on airplanes?" At least they have barf bags.
REWATCHABILITY: After gaining some distance from Juliet, I might be able to take a second look (which I partially say because its very possible that Jeff Bayer will send this DVD to my domicile). Though, I am struggling with the answer to my own question, "Which one could I watch a second time? Leap Year or Letters to Juliet?"
Yes, Virginia, there is a Romeo out there for you. But you'd never know that by trying to experience something like this. Considering the flick's romance, it's a wonder that Sophie could really love either of her male counterparts, as the relationships are all exterior, with no butterflies or awkward heartbeats to be felt in any scene. The movie could have saved some money if they just replaced Bernal and Egan with cardboard cutouts. They’d get the same result, and maybe even a laugh or two. The movie could still continue its mission of creating a cycle of lies that people like Sophie eventually become walking, dreamy-eyed examples of.
This is a romantic fairytale in desperate need of a heartbeat that's made for those who can chew on lazy stories of romance, with or without vampires and werewolves. Whether it wants to be a fantasy or not, the Letters to Juliet is still written with a dull pen. It should offer jokes, slapstick, or anything involving for its audience if it's going to skim over referencing Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” True love is presented in the most unlikely of circumstances, and the movie hardly makes an effort to accept its cheese as fantasy. With a young girl from New York finding love in a British dude who’s grandmother is successful in finding the Italian man she knew fifty years ago, Letters to Juliet might as well preach about the existence of Santa Claus.
FINAL SCORE: 3/10