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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

'Letters to Juliet' resists pitfalls of its genre

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Amanda Seyfried stars in "Letters to Juliet," out now on DVD and Blu-Ray from Summit Entertainment.
If I were to make a list of my favorite genre of film, the romantic comedy wouldn't be at the top. I don't like all the cotton candy goodness and the tidy little endings that most all come with, but I found an exception with "Letters to Juliet".

While it wouldn't make any of my top 10 lists, unless we throw Gael Garcie Bernal atop the worse overacting performances in history, "Letters to Juliet" has a tremendous amount a likeable qualities which make it stand out from the pack.

Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is a wannabe writer fact checker extraordinaire who is swept away by her fiancÚ Victor (Bernal) to Italy for a pre-honeymoon due to his new restaurant opening. But when the getaway turns into more of a business trip, Sophie uses the opportunity to explore and visits Casa di Giulietta in Verona, the rumored true home of "Juliet." Yes, that Juliet.

While sightseeing, she happens upon the wall where women write letters to Juliet, and whose letters are answered by "Juliet's secretaries," a group of women dedicated to retrieving the letters and answering each one individually.

After following a woman who has collected the letters, she meets the secretaries and when she stumbles upon a letter behind a broken brick, they instruct her to write the author Claire (Vanessa Redgrave). Much to Sophie's surprise, Claire's grandson Charlie (Christopher Egan) shows up and reveals due to the letter his grandmother has returned to find her beloved Lorenzo (Franco Nero), the man she ran away from in 1957. Much unlike his grandmother, Charlie seems to be an uptight, non-romantic, but as the movies rolls on, his mask falls and we see he may be more like granny than we previously thought.

Sophie tags along, hoping the good story she anticipates comes to fruition, all the while beginning to fall for Charlie, while Victor is combing the countryside looking for stock and supplies for his restaurant. And as Sophie begins to fall in love, Claire comes face-to-face with her past and the man who has held her heart for more than five decades.

What makes the film have such believability to it is the chemistry Redgrave and Nero possess. We've waited the entire film to see first, if she'll find her love and secondly, what will be his reaction to her. Will he remember her or will she just be another face to him? The real life husband and wife acting duo give us a payoff when they finally meet that is sensational and Redgrave is a stunner even at age 73.

However, one of weakest link for me was the chemistry between Seyfried and Egan. We spend so much of the movie not liking Charlie; it's hard to accept the fact Sophie begins falling for him even as his good qualities begin to present themselves.

Seyfried is a definite talent to keep an eye on. I really liked her in this role and the heart and warmth she infused in Sophie. She's able to pull off beautiful and smart and do one heck of an acting job all the while.

Extra goodies on the DVD and Blu-ray include some deleted and extended scenes, a 13-minute "Making of Juliet: In Italia" featurette and a six-minute featurette called "A Courtyard in Verona" which explores the origins of the current courtyard. There's also a nice commentary track with Seyfried and director Gary Winick.

Final Cut: "Letters to Juliet" is a unique creature, as it is a romantic comedy that doesn't fall into the usual ruts associated with the genre. Seyfried is a fresh face who's able to hold her own against Redgrave is a very surprisingly look film.

4 out of 5 stars

Letters to Juliet

Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Vanessa Redgrave, Gael Garcia Bernal, Franco Nero, Chris Egan

Director: Gary Winick

Writer: Jose Rivera, Tim Sullivan

MPAA Rating: PG for brief rude behavior, some language and incidental smoking

Runtime: 1 hr. 45 min.

Available now from Summit Entertainment