Rating: 2 out of 5
You never know what you’re going to get with director Gary Winick. This is the man responsible for both the loveably earnest 13 Going On 30 and the thoroughly insufferable Bride Wars.
It’s that type of cinematic cognitive dissonance that makes my critical brain implode. It just goes to show that there’s a thin pink line between saccharine and sweet and in Winick’s case, the balance often falls upon the strength of the script and the presence of his leading lady.
Unfortunately, the writing for Letters to Juliet – the latest in Hollywood’s bland assembly line of romance fast food – relies on the same old predictable ingredients. Even more disappointingly, Amanda Seyfried, who plays the atypical wide-eyed idealistic protagonist Sophie, doesn’t have a tenth of the charm of Jennifer Garner either.
While on a ‘pre-honeymoon’ with fiancé Victor (Gael García Bernal) in Verona, Sophie stumbles upon the supposed site of Juliet's balcony, where lovelorn women tuck letters into its subjacent wall, seeking sagely advice regarding matters of the heart (because Juliet is obviously the best girl to turn to for relationship advice).
In any case, this ancient Aunt Agony tradition perks Sophie’s curiosity leading her to accidentally discover a note from half a century earlier written by Claire (Vanessa Redgrave), who fell in love with an Italian boy named Lorenzo (Franco Nero) as a teenager.
Claire reveals that she foolishly returned to her native England, thus abandoning her Romeo - an act that she has regretted ever since. Sophie takes it upon herself to reply to the aged letter, urging an elderly Claire to return to Italy to search for Lorenzo. With Victor perpetually distracted by work, Sophie joins Claire and her abrasive grandson, Charlie (Christopher Egan), on an expedition for lost love.
In between the search for Lorenzo across gorgeous wine country, a love triangle expectedly develops between Sophie, Charlie and Victor. It’s always a terrible omen when the couple that you’re supposed to be rooting for have absolutely zero chemistry with each other.
Bernal, in the very limited scenes given to him as the distant fiancé, displayed more screen sizzle with Seyfried than what Egan mustered with the lion’s share of the screen time. Christopher Egan may look like a cross between Ryan Phillipe and Heath Ledger but he possesses neither the talent nor charm of either.
The saving grace of this movie is the marvellous acting clinic put on by Vanessa Redgrave as septuagenarian sweetheart Claire. Redgrave brings sincere warmth and sparkling humanity to a film marred by unending formulaic plasticity.
For a movie that dares invoke a reference to Shakespeare’s greatest love story, the writing is truly on the wall for Letters to Juliet when it has no idea how to express the poetic magnificence and brutal heartache of true love. Try less postcard scenery and more passion next time.
About Hidzir Junaini
Hidzir Junaini, aka inSing.com's Movie Lover, is 23-years-old and a wealthy playboy billionaire by day and a caped crusader by night. Only one of those is true. He’s actually a freelance writer, blogger, full-time film buff and some-time socially awkward nerd. He also writes about music, restaurants and nightlife for Metrowize Asia.
Hidzir is the winner of the inaugural inSing Movie Lover contest that garnered over 1,000 participants. The Movie Lover contest is a search for a candidate who possesses outstanding passion for movies and a talent for writing engaging movie reviews.