Letters to Juliet: movie review

( PG ) ( Monitor Movie Guide )

The romantic plot twists of ‘Letters to Juliet’ are yawningly predictable but the beautiful scenery makes it all bearable.

Summit Entertainment/AP
Amanda Seyfried, right, and Gael Garcia Bernal are shown in a scene from 'Letters to Juliet.'

There is a brick wall in Verona, Italy, the setting for Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” where women for generations have been leaving notes seeking romantic advice from “Juliet.” The letters are dutifully answered by teams of volunteers.

Upon this frail filament of a story line is strung “Letters to Juliet,” a movie that has more sap than a pine forest. Amanda Seyfried, who seems to be everywhere in the movies these days, plays Sophie, an American vacationing in Italy with her restaurant owner fiancé Victor (Gael García Bernal). A fact checker for the The New Yorker who dreams of becoming a writer, Sophie gets her chance when she accidentally pries loose from the Verona wailing wall an undelivered 50-year-old letter, which she answers herself, from an Englishwoman named Claire (Vanessa Redgrave) about a lost love. Sophie’s response is so heartfelt that it has the surprise effect of luring Claire, along with her wary, belligerent grandson Charlie (Christopher Egan), back to Verona in search of lost lover Lorenzo. Filling up entire notebooks with observations for an article, Sophie teams with them to track him down.

No secret where any of this is going. While Victor is gallivanting all over Tuscany in search of the perfect truffle or the best wine, Sophie has plenty of time to contemplate Claire’s ardor – and Charlie’s handsomeness. We’re supposed to see Sophie and Charlie as junior-league counterparts to Claire and Lorenzo. Will they blow their chance at a lifetime of bliss like the oldsters did, or will they have the courage to embrace true love? If you guess wrong on this, you should have your head, as well as your heart, examined.

Seyfried is fetchingly winsome, though the director, Gary Winick, overindulges her big blue-green eyes. Redgrave, alchemist that she is, transforms corn syrup into vintage wine. She’s one of those actresses who can make even the dreariest role look good. (Lorenzo, by the way, is played by Franco Nero, her real-life husband. They cast many smoldering glances at each other. Any acting required for these scenes?)

The best reason to see “Letters to Juliet” is for the scenery. Why put up with airport traffic, full body searches, Icelandic ash clouds, and lost luggage when, instead, you can sit back and bask in the warm earth tones and blue vistas of Verona, Siena, Lake Garda, and Argiano. This movie doesn’t need a ticket for admittance. Just a passport will do. Grade: C (Rated PG for brief rude behavior, some language and incidental smoking.)


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