Letters to Juliet
“My dearest Amanda, please lift your restraining order …”

Theatrical Release Date: 5/14/2010
Director: Gary Winick
Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Vanessa Redgrave, Christopher Egan, Gael García Bernal, Franco Nero, Oliver Platt

Italy. A country full of passion and romance. Setting a romantic film in the city of Verona is hardly rocket surgery and is a surefire way to ensure that half of the audience will be in love with the project before the opening credits end.

Such is the way of “Letters to Juliet”, another entry in the romantic comedy genre that has many women swooning and many men wondering how they can avoid being honor bound to escort their sweetie pie.

This go around, Amanda Seyfried is an aspiring writer engaged to aspiring chef Gael García Bernal. On a vacation to Italy, she discovers the house of Juliet, where love stricken individuals gather to write letters to the famed heroine. As it happens, a group of women actually write back to those in need of a response and Seyfried takes it upon herself to reply to a 50 year old letter filled with longing and regret. This brings Vanessa Redgrave and her grandson Christopher Egan into the picture. The three join forces to track down Redgrave’s lost love and if you can’t figure out where it’s going from this paragraph, may I recommend skipping “The Usual Suspects”.

There are no grand tricks in the film and any “twists” are of the familiar and cliché kind. Still, while I might normally dismiss a picture so devoid of originality, the performances save the day. Okay, so Egan is bland and I won’t be sorry to never see him again but Amanda Seyfried and Vanessa Redgrave elevate the trite script into something truly romantic and sweet.

Seyfried has been enjoying greater exposure of late, parlaying her breakthrough in “Mamma Mia!” into features which drop the spotlight on the young actress (and while most have been a bit of fluff, her turn in “Chloe” should hopefully help her get juicier roles). Here, she embodies the young, innocent lover we all were at some point in our lives and is perfectly suited to being the protégé of Redgrave.

While not really the central focus of it all, Redgrave is the star of the show, pulling the strings behind the scenes and keeping the film vibrant and heart warming. Her maternal instincts, coupled with a lust for life, make for worthwhile entertainment and justify the hard earned money people will plop down to see this film.

Director Gary Winick has yet to impress me and this go around doesn’t necessarily change my mind, as all of the plot elements are pushed at the audience like an unnecessary warranty on a $100 DVD player. He does, however, manage to stay out of the camera’s way and depict the beauty of the Italian countryside and while it would have been nice to get a more intimate portrait of the cityscapes, this film will still be sure to inspire a few romantic getaways.

Does “Letters to Juliet” do anything innovative or remarkable? No, not really. Still, its formulaic nature is comforting and acceptable because of Redgrave and Seyfried, earning the film a 3 out of 5. An unabashed chick flick, many guys may have to be dragged into the theater but try not to think of it as a chore but rather, a chance to reignite any embers that have lost their smoldering edge over the years.