Starring Amanda Seyfried, Christopher Egan, Vanessa Redgrave and Gael Garcia Bernal. Directed by Gary Winick. 105 Minutes. PG.
If Letters to Juliet were a colour is would be pink. The pale, yet warm girly pink that lines little girls’ bedrooms and makes you think of strawberry ice cream, lip gloss and carnations.
Letters to Juliet begins as the romantic comedy that isn’t yet aware that it’s a romantic comedy. Sophie Hall (Amanda Seyfried) is a fact-checker with The New Yorker who dreams of being a writer. She’s engaged to a soon-to-be restaurateur (Gael Garcia Bernal) and we’re supposed to believe that they’re in love, although he neglects her. When the two go on a trip to Verona, Italy for their “pre-honeymoon,” the distance between them swells even more. Aside from the fact that he’s too busy doing prep for his restaurant, he doesn’t even let her finish her sentences.
This is the biggest problem with the film. In order to believe that a relationship is falling apart, we need to first believe that a relationship was there, and the film doesn’t convince us of this. It’s hard to imagine that the two were even ever remotely attracted to each other. He ignores her and doesn’t care about her life and it’s impossible to believe that he ever did.
One day during her Verona trip, Sophie is spending the afternoon on her own when she comes across Juliet’s wall. It’s supposedly the wall near Juliet Capulet’s home where women write teary love-sore letters and pin them to the wall for Juliet to read and reply. At the end of a day, a woman collects them all in a basket. Sophie sees this and follows the woman through town to find that a handful of women writing replies to the letters. They ask Sophie to join them and, with nothing else to do on her pointless pre-honeymoon, she does. While collecting letters, she finds one hidden behind a brick from 50 years past. It’s about a woman (Vanessa Redgrave) who has run away from her true love and Sophie undertakes it as her duty to reply. The next day, the woman returns to Verona and Sophie joins her on a mad chase throughout the region to find the long-lost Romeo.
It’s difficult to say how well roles were played because with such a corny script, it’s impossible to avoid corny acting. It’s a bit disappointing to see Seyfried in this film after having seen her performance in Chloe, but it’s the script that brings her down. Nothing in this film seems genuine, especially when after 50 years apart, true love reunites a couple and they’re both so unattached to their lives that they completely throw themselves at each other and ignore anything else that ever was.
What’s also cliché is the soundtrack, far too Disney. You’re almost waiting for her to spin through a pink, sparkly haze and come out a princess. It’s hard to recognize Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” when it plays because it’s just such an obvious song choice that you’d think it would never be chosen.
But what was most ridiculous about the film was Sophie being a fact-checker. At least it only lasts for about five minutes. Unfortunately, the DVD last for 105 minutes, extended an entire 10 painful more minutes than the theatrical version. C-
EXTRAS: Commentary with cast and director, deleted and (dreadfully) extended scenes, featurettes