Monday, September 6, 2010

'Letters to Juliet' Movie Review

'Letters to Juliet' Movie Review

Written by: Karen Benardello

It started with a spontaneous kiss, but ended with a predictable one. The new romantic drama, ‘Letters to Juliet,’ starring Amanda Seyfried, Vanessa Redgrave and relative newcomer Chris Egan, hopes to prove that amidst a string of highly-budgeted and anticipated summer blockbusters, love can still cross international borders and conquer all.

The movie follows Sophie Hall (played by Seyfried), who works as a fact checker at The New Yorker magazine. Sophie embarks on a “pre-honeymoon” with her fiancĂ©e, Viktor (played by Gael Garcia Bernal), to Verona, Italy, as he’s busy opening an Italian restaurant and won’t have time to take a vacation after the wedding. While on their trip, Sophie finds the house that was the inspiration for Juliet’s home in ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ and sees people writing letters to her, asking for love advice.

Sophie sees a woman take the letters, and brings them back to a group of women, who call themselves ‘Juliet’s secretaries.’ Their job is to respond to the letters left at Juliet’s house, and since Viktor has left her alone to do his own work, Sophie offers to help the secretaries. She finds a 50-year-old letter from Claire (played by Redgrave), an English woman who asked for advice when she was visiting Verona as a teenager.

Not knowing if Claire would even receive her response, Sophie decides to write back anyway. A few days later, Claire’s grandson Charlie (played by Egan) shows up at the secretaries’ office, asking who wrote the letter. He gets mad at Sophie when she reveals it was her, as Claire is now adamant that she search for her long-lost love. Sophie decides to tag along with Claire and Charlie on their journey, as she not only wants to help, but also wants to chronicle Claire’s search for her love in a piece for The New Yorker.

The main focus that distributor Summit Entertainment rightfully focused on during the promotion of ‘Letters to Juliet’ was the recent rise in popularity of Seyfried. Since she has starred in comedies, dramas and musicals, the studio seemed eager to prove she can be also be a romantic leading actress, much like Kristin Stewart in its most successful series, ‘The Twilight Saga.’ But since she’s more popular with the younger generations, having starred in ‘Dear John,’ ‘Jennifer’s Body’ and ‘Mean Girls,’ it seemed likely Redgrave was picked to draw in the older crowd.

While the screenplay for ‘Letters to Juliet,’ which was written by Jose Rivera and Tim Sullivan, aimed to have Seyfried and Egan complement each other in both the personality and romantic senses, their relationship on-screen seemed to fall short. While Seyfried was believable as the ambitious fact-checker for The New Yorker, one of the most desirable jobs in journalism, she seemed to have more of a friendship than a romantic relationship with Egan.

Seyfried also made it believable that Sophie wanted to help Claire find her one true love, but her relationship with Redgrave seemed forced; for example, in the scene where Claire is brushing Sophie’s hair, a common activity for a mother figure to do for a daughter figure, they both appeared to be somewhat uncomfortable onscreen.

The movie almost made back its entire $30 million budget within its first week and a half of release, and will surely be somewhat of a minor box office success at the end of its theatrical run. While ‘Letters to Juliet’ is Egan’s first romantic movie in America, after moving to L.A. from Australia in 2003, being cast alongside Seyfried will surely help his career, and will cement both of their places as leads in the future.

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