Redgrave, Seyfried dazzle in charming 'Letters'
Most had to do with the fact that Letters follows the romantic comedy formula to a T, while others focused on how easy it is to make a great-looking movie on location in Italy or how the filmmakers did a favor to millions of boyfriends, dragged along for the ride, by keeping Amanda Seyfried in tight, low-cut shirts.
By the end of Letters, however, I was having one of those classic sad/happy moments. I was sad because I knew I wasn't going to get to share any of those jokes with you, jokes that might not have actually been all that funny but kept me snickering to myself at the time nonetheless. But as it turns out, Letters to Juliet is a very charming and enjoyable romantic comedy.
Yes, it's completely predictable and contains no surprises, but it's also extremely likable. Maybe it's because it was shot on location in Italy, where it's beautiful? Maybe it's because Seyfried and Christopher Egan have great comedic chemistry as the bickering lovers-to-be? Maybe it's because Vanessa Redgrave, at the age of 73, still has a smile warm enough to melt butter?
The film follows Sophie (Seyfried), who works as a fact checker for The New Yorker but dreams of one day writing for them. She then travels to Verona, Italy, with her fiance, Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal) for a "pre-honeymoon," but Victor is so busy trying to find the right ingredients for his new restaurant that he constantly has to cancel their sight-seeing plans.
Sophie finds a distraction of her own in the Secretaries of Juliet, a group of women who collect letters written "to Juliet" by heart-broken women (left below the site of "Juliet's balcony") and write them back. But Sophie finds a gem behind a brick, written more than 50 years ago, and decides to write back.
I'm not sure exactly how long Sophie and Victor's trip was supposed to last - or which one of them inherited a massive trust fund - but they seem to be there for weeks on end. They are there long enough for Claire (Redgrave) and her grandson Charlie (Egan) to arrive in Verona because Claire, after getting Juliet's response, decides to find the man she ran out on 50 years prior.
Although the first 30 minutes were slightly slow and cliche-ridden (aside from a great Oliver Platt cameo), the film immediately picks up as soon as Redgrave arrives in Verona. She's got the enthusiasm of a teenager in love for the first time and the wisdom of a widow who has seen a lot and doesn't have anything to lose. This is an adventure for Claire, who is also thrilled to have Sophie - who thinks this might be her breakthrough story - along for the ride.
I'll admit that there's always been something about Redgrave that makes me smile, and it's no different here - she's the kind of actress who can take silly material and make you care just by looking at the camera. That's as true today as it was when she won the Academy Award for Best Actress for Julia in 1977.
Seyfried is wonderful as Sophie, proving that her unconvincing turn in Dear John was caused by a terrible script and not any fault of the charming actress. Here she proves that she's got great comic timing and can bring depth and maturity to a silly script.
Although the film is silly, director Gary Winick (Charlotte's Web) and his cast create likable characters that act in mature ways and seem to use logic in their decision-making. While they make the obvious choice that you know they're going to make, I believed that these characters acted in mature ways and thought their decisions through instead of illogically doing what the script tells them to, like Dear John.
I must admit that the film's conclusion is painfully sweet, and I still think that Winick and company were smart enough to create their happy ending in a more subtle way, but I also don't think the target audience is going to care.
Letters to Juliet is rated PG for brief rude behavior, some language and incidental smoking. It is currently playing at the Regal Cinema 7 in Boone.