D: Gary Winick. DP: Marco Pontecorvo. W: Jose Rivera & Tim Sullivan. Starring: Amanda Seyfried/Gael García Bernal/Christopher Egan/Vanessa Redgrave/Franco Nero.
As spring time still hangs in the air and wedding bells chime all over the world, everyone must know that romance season is still upon us. And with the sweetness of summer coming round the corner, Letters to Juliet is here to deliver that soporific honey suckled script that romance ravers have been craving. So, yes its time to sigh and swoon for what the studios call true love.
Most notably, off the bat, anyone in or out of the entertainment business will notice that this film, on the upper decks, is mostly all men. With the exception of two female producers who are part of a group of five given the same title. In relationship to story this will be discussed later. But, from a genre standpoint it is important to note that not all romance films, rom-coms included are limited to the woman’s sphere of filmmaking. In fact, no genre is technically limited.
That being said, Letters to Juliet is immediately likable due to its lead, a smart New Yorker fact checker named Sophie. Sweetly, innocently, and modestly played by Amanda Seyfried, her Sophie (thankfully) lacks any crass career obsessed layer that is normally given to female leads bounding the sidewalks of Manhattan. Rather Seyfried allows her character to re-learn who she is based on the new experiences falling into her lap. Gratefully, this all happens on an Italian backdrop and with a queen of British cinema to boot.
Vanessa Redgrave’s turn as a sad Juliet writer summoned back to Italy by Seyfried is the very thing that grounds the film and allows its premise to remain tolerable. Like in Nick Cassavetes 2004 film The Notebook, this film’s elder storyline helps to reign in the drama and cheese-like elements of the narrative. Unfortunately, Redgrave is not enough to turn the film around. Rather its PG rating and genuine predictable sunshine force Letters to Juliet to be everything you expect it to be. Even Christopher Egan as Redgrave’s grandson Charlie is all too contrived. With Gael García Bernal relationship with Seyfried all too unbelievable as their connection is never well developed. A fault to be blamed on the male-dominated creative team that thought it was plausible that such a selfish character would even contemplate marriage.
However, there is still a market for this film. One historical benefit of the cinema genre is that it can audiences to places, worlds, and universes they will never see. Whether fictionalized or not, cinema can transport audiences to a part of the world they could not travel to or even discover something they didn’t see in their own backyard. In Letters to Juliet audiences will have the pleasure of touring and seeing Italy, specifically Verona, on screen. And although it cannot show audiences everything or mimic the true experience of travel, the film at least embraces its sense of space. So much so that despite whatever faults or dislikes audiences may have with the film, they will surely exit the theater with a sense of excitement. A sense of wonder at another part of the world and a thirst to make their trip happen.