Movie Review: LETTERS TO JULIET

Letters to Juliet (opening Friday, May 14) is like a chocolate truffle—a little too sweet, delicious-looking but not that filling.

Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), a fact checker and aspiring writer at The New Yorker, takes a pre-honeymoon to Verona, Italy with her fiancé, Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal), since it’s the only time he can spare before the opening of his restaurant. Victor is immediately caught up in finding the perfect truffles and wine for his restaurant, leaving Sophie alone to explore the town and Juliet’s house. There she finds letters taped to the wall, messages from women asking Juliet for advice, romantic and otherwise. Sophie also meets a group of women who answer these letters, calling themselves secretaries of Juliet.

After finding a letter from 1957 written by a Claire Smith (Vanessa Redgrave) about her lost love Lorenzo Bartolini, Sophie writes the woman back, encouraging her to find him. Soon, Claire shows up with her impatient grandson, Charlie (Christopher Egan), and the three set off to visit all the Lorenzo Bartolinis within a certain radius to see if The One is among them (a montage with several different Lorenzos is quite amusing). Along the way, the annoyance Charlie and Sophie feel for each other develops into something else.

The main reasons to see this movie are the resplendent Vanessa Redgrave—she practically radiates light on screen—and the gorgeous Italian scenery. Redgrave elevates the material with her mere presence, giving it an elegance it may have lacked otherwise. It’s because of her I found my eyes wet at one point.

The sun-drenched Verona and Siena vistas are another major draw, at least for me, since I went there several years ago and this was like my travel album coming alive but with better pictures. If you’ve never been, it’ll serve as a beautiful primer and/or inexpensive virtual vacation. You’ll want to eat Italian food afterward, drink Carpazo wine and take a long drive in the countryside.

Seyfried makes a plucky enough heroine, crying beautifully when required, but there’s nothing especially appealing about Egan. The two generate more heat when they’re bickering than when they have to look at each other with moony eyes; their reversal of feelings seems rushed to me. Despite their lead billing, their story doesn’t have the emotional resonance of Claire and Lorenzo’s affair. Claire’s true love is played by Franco Nero and, interestingly enough, the cinematic story mirrors the two actors’ real history. After beginning a romance over 40 years ago, Redgrave and Nero separated then reconnected and married less than four years ago. Art imitates life, indeed.

Nerd verdict: Letters not first class, but visually pleasing

All photos by John Johnson/Summit Entertainment

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11 Comments

  • Reply
    EIREGO
    May 10, 2010 at 9:55 am

    I have been watching Amanda Seyfried onscreen for a while now in different films, but haven’t really thought of her as a star yet. She’s a decent enough actress, but I’m not really impressed with her like I was when I first saw Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep or Anne Hathaway. There’s just not that spark. Maybe she just needs the right vehicle.

    I love fair Verona. I got to go there a few years ago. Saw the famous balcony and the statue of Juliet. Never saw any letters on the walls there. I wonder if that is just a invention of the writers.

    Many times I will attend a film just for the scenery, but after your review, maybe I wait for the dvd.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      May 12, 2010 at 2:19 pm

      I like Seyfried enough, thought her singing was lovely in Mamma Mia!, but I guess time will tell if she’ll be a big star like those you mentioned.

      As for the location of the letters, see Jenn’s comment below.

  • Reply
    Reader#9
    May 10, 2010 at 10:09 am

    I took my mother to see this over the weekend. She smiled for the most part and later we had ice-cream. So, yes, it was a very sugary afternoon for me.

    During my trip to Italy, I had a brief stop over in Verona. I was surprised that the balcony of Romeo and Juliet actually existed. I never saw any letters either, EIREGO, but the Secretaries of Juliet do actually exist. Google them to learn more.

    Like I mentioned, it made my mother smile and that was enough for me.

    What I don’t understand is why tourists think it is funny to take pictures of themselves with the Juliet statue while cupping the breast of the statue. They did it in real life while I was there and they showed people doing it onscreen as well. And these aren’t little kids either. Fully grown adults are doing it as well.

    The film was beautifully shot though.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      May 12, 2010 at 2:21 pm

      Oh, so glad it made your mother smile. Who cares if it’s good or not if that’s the end result, right?

      I don’t know why people like grabbing the statue’s boob, either. I saw that while I was there and thought they were just pervy tourists. But then it’s in the movie! Weird.

  • Reply
    Elizabeth Duncan
    May 10, 2010 at 11:16 am

    There’s something very touching about seeing Vanessa Redgrave together again with Franco Nero. The were beautiful together many years ago as Gwenivere and Launcelot in Camelot with Richard Harris as King Arthur. Vanessa was a great beauty in her youth and she still is.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      May 12, 2010 at 2:23 pm

      I haven’t seen Camelot but wanted to check it out after seeing Redgrave and Nero here. It is quite moving to see them together.

  • Reply
    Shell Sherree
    May 11, 2010 at 12:19 am

    Oh, talking about having moist eyes, I teared up reading your snippet about Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero’s true life affair ~ I can only guess what being in this movie together may have meant to them. I’d love to watch it for the scenery you describe at the very least, PCN. Thank you!

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      May 12, 2010 at 2:25 pm

      I wonder if the screenwriter wrote the script with them in mind. It’s too amazing a coincidence.

      The scenery might inspire some illos for you!

  • Reply
    jenn
    May 12, 2010 at 8:42 am

    The ONLY reason I would see this movie is for Vanessa Redgrave and the scenery. I’ve gotten to where supposedly romantic movies make me want to gag. Maybe that’s because I’m approaching 30 and am still single, but whatever. 🙂 So predictable.

    However, as I have been to Italy 3 times and Verona twice, I may have to watch. I don’t foresee a trip to Italy in the next couple years, and it is absolutely my favorite place. And for those who remember the statue and balcony – don’t you remember the narrow passageway from the street? Or did you go through the house? If you entered from the street, the passageway is full of notes and graffiti on the stone walls. I have a few pics of it. Also, there is a well not far from there with locks all over it. Lovers go there to profess their undying love, sign the lock, and toss the key into the well. Ah, Italy…

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      May 12, 2010 at 2:28 pm

      I remember the well and the alley. Did you read any of the letters?

      I’d love to see your photos. For some reason, I can’t find mine. I’m sure they’re around somewhere (wanted to post them with review) but I’ll be darned if I know where.

      • Reply
        jenn
        May 13, 2010 at 4:48 pm

        I’ll see if I can find them. I switched computers in February, and lazy me, I haven’t uploaded everything yet.

        I loved the well. No, I didn’t read any of the letters. I am weird about things like that. If I had ever placed one, I would not want it read. Of course, that’s the risk you take with something like that.

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