Letters to Juliet Gary Winick

Letters to Juliet Gary Winick
Letters to Juliet is one of those tepid romance films that ask the question, quite literally, "Do you believe in destiny?" It does this with a flirtatious smile, a doe-eyed glimmer of innocence and then runs off to find some unicorns, bonbons and, I would assume, a copy of Cosmopolitan to read in a bubble bath, because a girl needs to treat herself ― she deserves it. More succinctly, it's grotesque, vile and superficial, but serviceable, pretty and better than expected for a predictable, formulaic chick-flick.

2010's it-girl, Amanda Seyfried stars as Sophie, a fact-checker and aspiring journalist taking a pre-marriage honeymoon to Italy with her overly enthusiastic and self-involved foodie fiancé Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal). Left alone for most of the trip while Victor does his thing, she stumbles into the courtyard of the fabled home of Juliet Capulet, where the lovelorn write weepy prose about their romantic struggles and stuff them into the cracks of a wall.

Cue the campy journalistic curiosity, a 50-year-old letter hidden behind a rock and a team of affable letter-writing caricatures that respond to said letters, and Sophie is driving across Europe with Vanessa Redgrave and her curmudgeonly, anorexic, androgynous grandson Charlie (Christopher Egan) looking for a man that may, or may not be, alive.

The romance here is strictly of the contrived variety, with Seyfried waxing playfully optimistic to Egan's constant negativity and hostility. It would probably work, in a Cutting Edge sort of way, if the pair had any kind of chemistry, but they're both more interested in the gorgeous Italian scenery than each other. And cinematographer Marco Pontecorvo (Rome) is more preoccupied with Seyfried's "assets" than he is with capturing any sparkling moments of youthful affection.

Redgrave, as usual, is a pleasure, and her quest to find the one that got away grounds the film, propelling it forward. It's a shame that it's reduced to the broadest of clichés and used as framing fodder for the shallow love story in the foreground, however. Of course, it could be worse; they could have had a shopping montage or a food fight scene. (E1)