Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews
- Category: Jacqueline Monahan
- Published on 14 May 2010
- Written by Jacqueline Monahan
Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
If the first Juliet that springs to mind is Shakespeare’s maiden Capulet, you are so right. As it turns out, the tragic heroine of literature and love is a kind of Dear Abby for women who make a pilgrimage to her house in Verona, Italy. Attaching angst-filled letters onto the garden’s exterior wall with endless hope and emotional fervor, they ask for advice and beg for favors.
You’d think they’d pick a better role model. Juliet wasn’t such a good one, after all, dying young after a misunderstanding mixed with bad timing. No matter, the women and the letters keep coming day after day.
American tourist and pre-honeymooner Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) discovers this one sunny day while her workaholic fiancé Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal) turns their vacation into a business trip, leaving her to sightsee on her own. She finds out that a group of women, each with a “counseling” specialty, answer every letter that is left on the wall. Helping collect them, Sophie discovers one that’s been missed for fifty years (inside a loose brick) and is moved enough by its contents to answer it.
Since Sophie’s a fact checker for the iconic New Yorker magazine and has aspirations toward becoming a contributor, she begins documenting Juliet’s wall of letters as her first professional publication attempt. Victor’s business dealings keep the two apart, so Sophie continues to assist the Juliet writers.
Surprise visitors appear days later in the form of serene, stately Englishwoman Claire (Vanessa Redgrave) and her contentious, cynical grandson Charlie (Christopher Egan). Life changes quickly after that as the trio embark on a quest to find Lorenzo (Franco Nero), the young man lamented over in the erstwhile decades-old letter.
The rest of the film is a journey toward a long lost love and the discovery of a new one. That’s all I’m going to say, but it is almost a spoiler how you can see what’s coming from miles away without binoculars. You’ve experienced this formula before and Letters to Juliet proves it is alive and well, occurring over and over in different locations with the same outcome, at least cinematically. This location, at least, is the spectacular Italian countryside incorporating vineyards, seascapes, red tiled roofs and endlessly lush greenery into the road trip that follows.
Ethereal Amanda Seyfried is a wise choice to play Sophie (no pun intended) because of her luminosity and wide-eyed appeal. Vanessa Redgrave is regal and angular and imposing, easily commanding the screen with her formidable presence. Christopher Egan is a Ryan Phillippe wannabe missing a lot of that actor’s charisma, while Franco Nero has aged like a fine wine. Gael Garcia Bernal’s Victor portrays the fast-talking hyperactivity of a type A personality with a distracted charm, bringing another more sympathetic dimension to a usually minor character in this type of story.
The film pairs former Camelot lovers Redgrave and Nero (Guinevere and Lancelot) together. The two had been a red-hot item for awhile, producing a son and then splitting apart for more than 35 years. Their scenes of attraction for each other seem comfortably genuine.
Director Gary Winick (Bride Wars) harnesses the geographical romance of Italian scenery to complement the otherwise formulaic actions of his cast of characters. It transports you, but not nearly as far as you’d need to go to get some originality or at least a bit of quirk injected into the proceedings. The Mediterranean eye candy locations fall short of delivering anything more than postcard-like compositions and magnificent backgrounds for predictable events.
Letters to Juliet should have had a lot more going for it. It’s got a Shakespearean character as its patron saint and it’s a kind of real-life reprise for two of Camelot’s principals. Not a bad pedigree, and not a bad movie – just not a great one and unfortunately, nothing to write home about.