Letters to Juliet
by Richard von Busack
AS Sideshow Bob might have predicted: The chick flick’s bottomless chum bucket has claimed Vanessa Redgrave. Aspiring New Yorker writer Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is involved with a way-too-preoccupied NYC chef (Gael García Bernal in the year’s most thankless male role); the two fly to Italy for a “pre-marriage honeymoon,” but he’s so involved with quaffing chiantis and finding truffles that he has no time for his fiancee.She tours Casa di Giulieta, which the Veronese assert is the actual home of Juliet Capulet. The lovelorn have been leaving letters to the imaginary girl for years, in crevices underneath the famous balcony.
Sophie finds not only a squad of female volunteers answering the letters but also a 50-year-old message, a communiqué from an English woman (Redgrave) who had to leave an Italian lover behind. Sophie answers the letter; the lady arrives with her diffident yet cute British grandson (Christopher Egan), whose insults hide a tender bruised heart. A movie about Seyfried in various sundresses, walking through Verona and Siena, should have had male as well as female appeal. But the dialogue is absolutely unforgivable. And while we’re on the subject of Shakespeare, seeing the featherheaded Sophie being a New Yorker writer makes one want to remind that magazine’s marketing department of the Bard’s warning about having a good name stolen.
There are loads of locations, but director Gary Winick doesn’t frame them well. Note the security bars on the villas, and the empty sunburn fields look brutal: you can see this landscape and understand why immigrants fled it. The cityscapes have no bass note of funky life. Seyfried, despite divine shape and alertness, can’t make this work. You know the saying “The lights are on, but nobody’s home?” Here there’s someone clearly at home, it’s just that the lights aren’t on.