Genre: Comedy/ Romance
Director: Gary Winick
Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Vanessa Redgrave,
Gael Garcia Bernal, Franco Nero, Chris Egan
RunTime: 1 hr 45 mins
Released By: Shaw
Official Website: http://www.letterstojuliet-movie.com/
Opening Day: 24 June 2010
Gary Winick (Charlotte's Web, 13 Going on 30) directs LETTERS TO JULIET, a heartwarming romantic comedy written by Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Jose Rivera (The Motorcycle Diaries). When aspiring magazine writer SOPHIA MARCUS and would-be restaurateur VICTOR fly from New York to Italy for a vacation, the stage seems set for some much-needed romance in their relationship?especially since their destination is the city of Verona, home of the star-crossed lover Juliet Capulet of ROMEO AND JULIET fame.
But Victor is far more interested in finding suppliers for his future restaurant than in wooing Sophia, who ends up getting a vicarious romantic fix from an unlikely source: she joins a group of volunteers who respond to letters that pour into Verona from around the world?letters to Juliet seeking advice about love. One such letter that Sophia responds to dates back to 1951 and came from one CLAIRE SMITH, an Englishwoman who fell in love with a young Italian man in her youth but let the opportunity slip away.
To Sophia's surprise, her letter inspires Claire, now a grandmother, to travel to Verona in search of her long-lost love? accompanied by her grandson CHARLIE. With Victor wrapped up in his culinary quest, Sophia, Charlie and Claire scour the beautiful Italian countryside in search of Claire's long-lost love. In the process, romance blossoms in unexpected ways, eventually facing Sophia with the very advice she wrote in her letter to Claire. Will she find the courage to seize love or- like Claire- spend a lifetime regretting the road not taken?
There is a place in Verona, Italy called Casa di Giulietta (or Juliet's House) where the lovelorn go to leave notes on the wall next to Juliet's balcony asking for love advice. These letters are collected at the end of each day and answered by a group of real-life employees who regard themselves as Juliet's secretaries. Think of them as Aunt Agonys- just with a little more class and anonymity.
Such is the idea of director Gary Winick's postcard-pretty romantic comedy, Letters to Juliet. Its premise alone is enough to tell you that this is a chick flick through and through, but here's the surprise- despite its predictability, it actually is pretty likeable. And indeed what's there not to like? It has stunning views of the Tuscan countryside; it stars the radiant Amanda Seyfried (you'll probably remember her from Mamma Mia!); and it's about second chances in love, which anyone who has ever been in love can certainly relate to.
At the heart of its story is the American girl Sophie, a magazine fact-checker on a pre-honeymoon vacation to Italy with her restaurateur fiancÚ, Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal). Victor's primarily interested in exploring the area for its culinary ingredients to use in his restaurant- so on one of those trips, Sophie decides to go visit the Casa di Giulietta on her own. There, she finds a letter written 50 years ago by a young British girl who had fallen in love with a dashing Italian while on holiday.
Sophie feels compelled to respond and her reply brings the elderly Claire (a luminous Vanessa Redgrave) to Italy, accompanied by her grandson Charlie (Christopher Egan). Claire wants to find her old beau Lorenzo Bartolini and so they set off on a road trip to visit the 74 men of the same name in Verona to locate her special one. Will Claire find the love she lost? Will Sophie find new love? Will Charlie fall in love? You'd probably already know the answers to all three questions.
Still, just because a rom-com sticks to predictable conventions doesn't make it less enjoyable- and Letters to Juliet is a nice example of that. The screenplay by Jose Rivera (who also wrote another road movie "The Motorcycle Diaries" starring Bernal) and Tim Sullivan doesn't strain for laughs or melodrama- instead, combined with Winick's direction, delivers an easygoing and utterly winsome charm throughout.
Just as importantly, it has its heart in the right place where it matters- and for that makes Claire's search for true love a heartfelt and poignant message to its audience not to give up on love. As Claire, Redgrave imbues her character with equal amounts of grace, pathos and passion and is no less than the heart and soul of the whole movie. Just as she inspires Sophie to love in the movie, those among the audience who have ever lacked the courage to love will also surely be inspired to find the determination and strength to love again.
Just as with Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia, Seyfried is here overshadowed by the performance of a fine veteran actress. But the ingenue once again proves she can hold her own with enough raw youthful exuberance and vulnerability. In supporting roles, Bernal is nicely offbeat as the self-involved Victor and Franco Nero adds in a dash of Italian zest as the still dashingly handsome Lorenzo (yes, the right one).
There's no denying the fantasy-like quality to it all which cynics will easily dismiss as pure romantic fluff. Sure it does feel artificial at times, designed to showcase the most tourist-friendly scenes of Italy with a certain romanticism- but that is precisely the indulgence that "Letters to Juliet" wants to offer its audience, to believe that there are second chances in love if only we dare to make it happen. Like the letters to Juliet which people leave at the Casa di Giulietta, it will leave its audience with hope that true love still prevails- and for many, that may be comforting enough.
(There's enough easy charm and heartfelt emotions in here to make this a winning chick flick)
Review by Gabriel Chong