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May 15, 2010
Review - " Letters to Juliet "  -  (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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The summary of the movie is hopelessly romantic ...... a chick flick to the nth degree.  A wall in Verona, Italy, is known for
Juliet’s stone balcony.  Yes, Juliet of Montague and Capulet and Romeo fame.  Lost souls leave letters in the wall of love
gone wrong, and love missing in action, and lovers needing advice, and love stories lacking love.  A group of Juliet’s
secretaries answer the letters.  Yes, it’s true… in real life, not witless ninny life, in Verona.  Club Juliet is actually functioning
as the movie tells it, answering letters left at the wall.  A modern-day Dear Abbey in motion.  Ah, hopelessly romantic!

Gary Winick has demonstrated some ability with this sort of material.  "Tadpole" was an interesting small-scale film, and "13
Going On 30" was a shameless riff on "Big" that worked because Jennifer Garner made it work.  This sort of breezy romantic
film seems like one of the easiest things in the world to pull off, and certainly there are dozens of them a year.  Most of them
are mediocre, though, dependent on truly stupid and unlikeable characters, focused on the idea that women are incomplete
without a man, incapable of anything that doesn't involve "romance."  I find it amazing that women actually watch "chick
flicks," because so many of them seem to genuinely hate women and treat them like thin-skulled creeps.

"Letters To Juliet," which takes its basic
inspiration from a true story, is a gentle,
charming story that features a winning lead
performance from Amanda Seyfried, who is
finally starting to carry films on her own, and
who proves here that she's absolutely capable
of doing so.  She plays Sophie, a fact checker
for The New Yorker, a girl on the verge of
marriage to Victor (Gael García Bernal), and
from the very start of the film, they allow her to
play a credible mix of strength and insecurity
that has more to do with her age and
experience than it does with her gender. She
and Victor have a pre-honeymoon trip planned
to Verona, although they have very different
ideas about what they're going to be going to
be doing once they get there.

For Victor, it's a chance to meet with suppliers
for the restaurant he's about to open, a
chance to sample wines and foods all over the country and learn new techniques that he can adapt to his own cooking.  It's
a business trip for him, while for Sophie, it was supposed to be a last chance to get away before Victor gets lost in his
restaurant and she begins what she hope will be a successful writing career.  She is drawn to Victor because of his passion
for what he does, but it's the same thing that keeps her in second place in his attentions pretty much all the time.  It gets
more and more pronounced, until finally Victor abandons her and takes off for a multi-day wine auction in another part of the

Instead of being a movie about Sophie chasing her man around trying to win him back, though, the film focuses on the way
Sophie begins to find her own passion, the way she takes a small coincidence and follows it to the first story of her career
worth telling.  While in Verona, she goes to visit the home of "Juliet," the courtyard and balcony that has become the official
residence of Shakespeare's legendary star-crossed lover.  Every year, thousands of letters are brought to that courtyard
and left there, addressed to Juliet, or mailed by people who can't make the trip.  The Juliet Club, also known as the
Secretaries of Juliet, is an organization of volunteers who take every one of those letters and write responses back to the
broken-hearted people.  This is the first time I knew about them and there's something very powerful in the idea of all of
these cries of pain to be not only heard but answered.  Sophie's drawn to the idea, and when she offers to help for a few
days, she ends up finding a letter that's been tucked into the wall for over fifty years and she decides to answer it herself.

weakest in the film and somewhat contrived, but even so, what makes it work is that their attraction isn't based on some
outrageous lie or some weird misunderstanding or a bet or any of the other dozens of moronic staples of the genre.
Charlie's protective of his grandmother, and Sophie's engaged, so their attraction is a genuine issue between them.  The
more Sophie realizes that she is simply an accessory in Victor's life, the more she starts to realize how good it feels when
Charlie recognizes her accomplishments and actually reads her work and sees her as a person, not just an idea.

"Letters To Juliet" is absolute fantasy in many regards.  I spent much of the movie wondering how a fact-checker for The
New Yorker can afford the lifestyle we see in the film, even on a vacation, and there's not a lot of drama along the way.  It's
all fairly linear.  But Redgrave is one of those actors who can take even the simplest material and invest it with depth and
feeling, and in many ways, there are personal echoes here that have to make her feel connected to what she's playing.  She
and Franco Nero fell in love when they were making "Camelot" together in the '60s, and they had a child together.  She
left Nero, though, and spent many years with Timothy Dalton.  It was only in the last decade that Redgrave and Nero got
back together, and now they're actually married.   Casting Nero as the long-lost Lorenzo is a sort of genius detail for the film,
and it makes for some very natural, lovely moments between the two once they're reunited.  As for Seyfried, she's a
beautiful young woman with plush 1940s-Hollywood looks, and she is able to play smart and capable and complex in the
film.  She's got a hard road ahead of her as
an actor because much of what she'll be
offered will be the exact sort of crap that this
film refutes.  But looking at the way she's
done things so far, one can hope that this is
the sort of project she chases as she moves
forward.  If she's going to be a mainstream
romantic movie star, and she certainly has
every qualification to be one, then at least
she's managed to find a movie that genuinely
celebrates romance as opposed to another
creepy woman-hating "comedy" about how
worthless a girl is without a ring.  Seyfried's
Sophie is made complete by her own
accomplishments in the film, and any love
she finds is simply an added bonus.  That
idea alone takes this simple confection and
renders it nearly revolutionary.
Directed by: Gary Winick
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Gael Carcia Bernal, Vanessa Redgrave,
Christopher Egan, Franco Nero, Oliver Platt

What a refreshing movie to see in today’s world of over-sexed, potty-
mouth, shoot-em-up flicks.  I’m a self-professed romance movie die-
hard that so appreciates the film industry making movies that are
endearing, romantic, humorous, inoffensive and beautiful. Of course I
know not all movie goers appreciate this type of entertainment…. one
review I read said Letters to Juliet was a ”witless ninny of a movie.”  
So I assumed that reviewer would consider me a witless ninny, but
that’s OK.  I thoroughly enjoyed two hours of witless entertainment.

Amanda Seyfried has a future in show business. She has this future
because she is a likeable character, a beautiful woman, and a
talented actress. Her new film "Letters to Juliet", is not based on a
Nicholas Sparks novel, which is usually the main draw for romantic
movies these days, and since I still saw pretty decent sized crowds for
this new movie, I can attribute at least a little bit of that audience to
her. She has used her big, beautiful eyes create characters that
women can care about and not feel threatened by, a trait that the
uber-gorgeous Megan Fox will never have, but one she doesn’t really
care to have either, as long as she keeps getting huge paychecks
from the action movies she does. But with her likeability and acting
chops (recently showcased in her great role in
Chloe), Amanda
Seyfried is working on a faithful audience that could rival some of the
big name actresses in Hollywood.
She's not expecting to actually see that
story play out, but a few days later, the
woman she wrote to actually arrives in
Verona, and Sophie ends up drawn into
the orbit of Claire (Vanessa Redgrave),
this English woman who had one perfect
summer with an Italian man named
Lorenzo a half-century ago.  She agrees to
help Claire track down her Lorenzo to see
if there's any chance for a reunion, and
the majority of the film is about the idea of
picking up where you left off and dealing
with the "what ifs" that so many of us carry
around, weighed down by regret.  Claire's
got a grandson named Charlie (Christopher
Egan) who travels with her, and he and
Sophie begin a love/hate flirtation that
pretty much anyone will figure out the
trajectory of about twenty seconds after
they first meet. Their storyline is the