Now Playing Review – Letters to Juliet

Letters to Juliet is another entry into the romantic comedy genre that is about as cookie cutter as cookie cutters can get.  It is predictable, cheesy, and underwhelming more often than not, but somehow even though I was rolling my eyes at it all, I couldn’t help but be charmed by the familiar love story.

While sightseeing alone during her pre-wedding honeymoon in Italy, Sophie comes across a wall where women post letters to Juliet (yes, that Juliet), asking for love advice.  Seeing as she has a lot of free time thanks to her distracted fiancé, she decides to help out a group of women who call themselves the secretaries of Juliet by responding to a 50-year-old letter.  Thanks to the power of movie time, it is not long before the author of this letter, who is now all grown up, has returned to Italy to take Sophie’s advice and hunt down her long lost love, to the dismay of the grandson who has come along, and just so happens to be Sophie’s age.  Oooo sexual tension…

Just incase my use of “cookie cutter” eluded you before, I will reiterate by saying that this is about as unoriginal as a rom-com can get.  Every plot point is telegraphed before it happens, every character is written in a stereotypical way for this genre, and watching the trailer for this film is just as effective in telling the story as sitting through the film itself.  Yet I left the theater feeling that sometimes that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Sometimes all you really need is a reminder of these genre touchstones to be completely charmed by this genre, and any hopeless romantic will leave with an overwhelming, heart warmed sensation in their chest because of the representation of this woman’s unwillingness to give up on a love she felt 50 years ago.

Vanessa Redgrave plays this woman, and her performance seems to be the only one in the film that is capable of rising above the role she is given.  As the other actors seem stuck in their roles with little to do, she played up every aspect of her character, making her easily an individual that I would love to go road tripping with.  Unfortunately this film doesn’t play up this woman’s character and love story as much as it should, but instead weakly works in a second love story of the triangle variety between Sophie and the two men she must decide between that takes up far more screen time than it deserves.  For starters, Sophie’s character is far too weak to carry the film, giving Amanda Seyfried little to work with in her performance.  Sophie’s fiancé comes off as a completely oblivious jerk (giving Gael García Bernal little to do as well), which I am assuming is to give Sophie the justification of any romantic tinglings she may feel towards the other male role in this film.  However, the man who is supposed to inspire her to move away from her fiancé is also pretty undesirable for the large part of the getting to know each other period of the film.  Other than Christopher Egan’s strong resemblance to a British Matt Damon, I was slightly baffled as to how his character could be considered a leading man in a romantic film, which just further weakens Sophie’s character because of her inability to find a decent guy.

Even though I wasn’t expecting much from this film because of its stereotypical nature (and obnoxiously excessive use of Italian pop music), I was still disappointed in the vast majority of it.  Put it this way, I spent far more time taking in the beautiful Italian scenery as opposed to watching the main characters, and was far more excited by a building I thought I possibly scaled while playing Assassin’s Creed 2 (sorry for the video game reference, seeing as most fans of the romantic comedy genre probably have no idea what I am talking about right now) than by the possibility of romance blooming below.  Yet somehow the hopeless romantic in me was charmed by the story of the woman trying to find the man she knew 50 years ago, thanks to a great performance from Redgrave, and I found myself with an overwhelming, girly “Aw…” building in my chest as I groaned at the rest of the film.  Without her, this film would have been completely forgettable, lost in the mass of films that are almost identical to this.

Final Grade: B-

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