Because studios will do anything to take money out of the pockets of lovesick women, yet another contrived tale of amore arrives special delivery courtesy of “Letters to Juliet."
Because studios will do anything to take money out of the pockets of lovesick women, yet another contrived tale of amore arrives special delivery courtesy of “Letters to Juliet.”
This cheesy second chance-at-love affair is set in postcard-perfect Verona and Sedona, Italy – a pair of cities that have infinitely more curb appeal than the tired story that takes a 113 minutes to get to its predictable ending.
Before arriving there, though, you have to slog through insufferable dialogue like “Do you believe in destiny?”; “True love knows no expiration date”; and other junk about soul mates, fate and coupling.
Not even bug-eyed beauty Amanda Seyfried – Hollywood’s It Girl from “Chloe” and “Dear John” – can deliver this stuff with conviction. She tries, but the pedestrian material from a script by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Jose Rivera (“The Motorcycle Diaries”) and Tim Sullivan is just so been there, done that. Think Nicholas Sparks.
Worse, director Gary Winick is in full-on “Bride Wars” mode, unable to coax a convincing moment out any member of his cast, except for Vanessa Redgrave, whose character, Claire, penned the letters in the film’s title.
Redgrave – and her expressive eyes – injects a dose of dignity and offers perhaps the film’s only worthwhile moment when she’s brushing Seyfried’s hair. It’s an intimate scene shared by a now-widowed woman who lost her child and a daughter who lost her mother.
Beyond that the premise is too flawed and the plot too contrived for the film to go anywhere substantial.
It lacks inventiveness and authenticity. Why these lovelorn women seek relationship advice from Juliet Capulet is troublesome.
As one half of the ill-fated lovers immortalized in Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet,” Juliet’s solution to her romantic entanglement was a suicide pact with her lover.
That’s where the plot in “Letters to Juliet” heats up. Seyfried’s budding journalist Sophie plucks out a 50-year-old letter behind a magically fallen brick at Juliet’s wall in Verona – see what I mean about contrived?
Sophie is compelled to answer it in the voice of one of Juliet’s Secretaries – a group of ladies she’s befriended because her restaurateur fiance ditches her to attend wine auctions and cheese tastings.
In case you’re wondering, there really is a self-appointed group of women who answer every letter posted on the fabled wall. Their story was chronicled in the book “Letters to Juliet,” which inspired the film.
The sun-faded missive Sophie finds was written by Claire (Redgrave) lamenting her lost love, Lorenzo Bertolini. Claire and her grandson Charlie (Australian hunk Christopher Egan) show up in Verona almost instantly. The postal service is fast in Europe, apparently.
Charlie’s stuffy Brit immediately clashes with Sophie, as the trio sets out to find Claire’s “one who got away.” Or as romantic skeptic Charlie calls it, a “voyage of lunacy.”
Problem is, there are 74 Lorenzos. No worries, though: Sophie possesses super sleuthing skills because she’s a fact checker at New Yorker magazine.
An actor who can do so much better than this dreck, Gael Garcia Bernal (“Rudo y Cursi”), livens things up in an otherwise dull role as Sophie’s fiance, Victor. Bernal spends much of the film conveniently away from the action, but when he’s on screen he makes his presence felt.
Caught up in opening a swank Manhattan eatery, Victor is using what was supposed to be their “pre-honeymoon” as an opportunity to explore the culinary riches of Italy. Bernal seems to have more spark with a wheel of cheese than he does with his mismatched leading lady.
As the search for Lorenzo moves from a fisherman to an aged Don Juan in a Speedo to the next candidate, Sophie and Charlie trade insults and conveniently grow closer with each barb. However, the double (or triple if you consider Lorenzo turns out to be Franco Nero, Redgrave’s real-life husband and rekindled lost love) romantic payoff that ultimately comes to fruition near the end just isn’t enough to make “Letters to Juliet” worth writing home about.
Dana Barbuto is at email@example.com.
LETTERS TO JULIET (PG for brief rude behavior, some language and incidental smoking.) Cast includes Amanda Seyfried, Christopher Egan, Gael Garcia Bernal, Vanessa Redgrave. Directed by Gary Winick. 1.5 stars out of 4.