LETTERS TO JULIET
Director: Gary Winick
Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Christopher Egan, Vanessa Redgrave, Gael García Bernal,
MPAA Rating: (for brief rude behavior, some language and incidental smoking)
Running Time: 1:39
Release Date: 5/14/10
Review by Mark Dujsik | May 13, 2010
are the two plots of Letters to Juliet:
1.) A young professional woman arrives in Verona with her workaholic fiancé and
meets a guy she can't stand; and 2.) a woman in her 60s comes to the city to
find the man she loved 50 years ago but had to leave because of obligations at
one is the plot outline for almost any generic romantic comedy one can bring to
mind (minus, perhaps, the boyfriend and changing the locale), and if I cared
more about it, I'd find a better, more negative term than "genre" to
define the niche plotlines like that one deserve to be labeled under. Off the top of my head, let's go with "brand."
Yes, brand, as in, these are the stories that have become easily
marketable and easy for an audience to digest, so much so that there's no reason
to mess with the elements of the brand.
shame of it is that the second story is latent with potential. It is inherently a romantic notion, and there are some real possibilities
to the story, even when it's crammed in to the other.
back to the heroine of the first story. Sophie
(Amanda Seyfried) is a fact checker for the New Yorker. She wants to
become a writer. Her fiancé is
Victor (Gael García Bernal), a chef about to open a restaurant. Since he will be so busy with the business of the restaurant soon, the
couple goes on a pre-honeymoon to Verona.
the disinterested cad he needs to be for Sophie's story to work, uses the trip
to visit the local suppliers for his venture, leaving Sophie to sightsee on her
own. She stumbles across the
traditionally recognized home of Juliet Capulet of Romeo
and Juliet fame, where women daily post letters of love-related issues on
the wall. Sophie becomes involved in
the answering of the letter, responding to one from a woman who, 50 years ago,
left the city and her beloved.
the second story. Claire (Vanessa
Redgrave), the woman from the letter, arrives in Verona because of Sophie's
response with her grandson Charlie (Christopher Egan), the arrogant cad he needs
to be so Sophie can hate him and discover his sensitive side. She has decided to find her long-lost Lorenzo, and Sophie tags along,
hoping to write the story for the magazine.
is a very clear problem with Jose Rivera and Tim Sullivan's script. Sophie writing the letter is the inciting incident for Claire's
story. Claire is the character with something to gain or lose. Her actions define the plot, and if there's a need to go all basic
dramatic structure on this movie (which apparently there is), Claire is the
having the more intriguing tale behind Claire, Sophie does nothing. She is an observer and, at her most influential, an aide, yet the script
ignores this most basic of storytelling necessities. Instead of allowing Claire to talk about her experiences and trying to
relate how this journey affects her, Rivera and Sullivan flip the entire thing
around to focus on Sophie.
is nothing to Sophie beyond her relationships to the two men in her life (and
her writing Claire's story). One of
these two men is unnecessary to the plot, and one could just flip a coin to
determine which one to eliminate. Get
rid of Charlie, and Sophie can decide whether her relationship with Victor is
worthwhile. Get rid of Victor, and
she can determine whether her relationship with Charlie is worthwhile. Either way, it's a passive action, and one that would rely entirely on
how Claire's story influences her.
works incredibly well under the limited development Claire has. She imparts wisdom with the most sincere, gracious tones, and as her
search around Verona progresses, the hopes and disappointments of discovering
each Lorenzo and finding out he is not the one of her memory are effective. Her performance leads to a certain regret of what could have been.
and Charlie go through the motions. They
hate each other. Then they exchange
quick glances of curiosity. They
talk about the now mandatory difficult childhood each of them had (Sophie's mom
ran off when she was young, while Charlie's parents died when he was a child). They begrudgingly accept each other's existence, glance some more, and
quickly decide they cannot live without each other.
Copyright © 2010 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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