Letters to Juliet (8/10)
by Tony Medley
Runtime 105 minutes.
OK for children.
In 1962, schoolteacher
Suzanne Pleshette runs off to Rome and meets architect student Troy
Donahue and they cavort all around Italy in one of the better
travelogues ever filmed. The syrupy love story entranced Troy and
Suzanne so much that they married. I heard that Troy was so scared he
jumped out of the window and they were soon divorced, but that could be
apocryphal. Whatever, it’s a movie that lives in my memory, so it must
have had something.
That’s what I was expecting
when I went to see Amanda Seyfried in Letters to Juliet, and it
is exactly what I got. Seyfried is no raving beauty, but she’s got an
admirable body and is proving to be a terrific actress, coming off a
great performance in Chloe. She takes a pretty saccharine script
(Jose Rivera and Tim Sullivan) here and gives a good performance in a
trying role. Director Gary Winick, who has a spotty record, with the
dismal Bride Wars (2009) to his credit, counterbalanced by the
surprisingly good 13 Going on 30 (2004), recognized that this
flimsy story isn’t enough to satisfy an audience for almost two hours,
so he throws in lots and lots of spectacular views of Italy, and that
makes it all worthwhile.
The story is that unhappy
lovers write letters in Verona to Juliet of Romeo and Juliet fame
and pin them to the walls. Four women collect them after hours and
answer them. Seyfried, a The New Yorker fact checker is in Verona
with her fiancé, Gael García Bernal, and gets involved. She finds an old
letter overlooked for a half century and answers it. Voila! The writer
is Vanessa Redgrave, who jilted her summertime boyfriend when she was 15
in 1957. Vanessa comes to Verona and she and Amanda and Vanessa’s
grandson, Christopher Egan, who finds Amanda hard to tolerate, go in
search of the man Vanessa jilted.
The script is developed so
that Amanda and Vanessa and Christopher are looking for one man. There
are 73 men in and around Verona with that same name, so this enables
Winick to locate them in differing environs of Tuscany. Each name takes
them to a different part and each journey includes wonderful scenery.
Even though the results are
predictable, the story is well-told and romantic, and the scenery is to