Thursday, May 06, 2010

“Letters To Juliet” – Movie Review

Last night in my movie class, we saw a romantic comedy titled, Letters To Juliet , starring Amanda Seyfried and Vanessa Redgrave.


During a young woman's vacation in Italy, she replies to someone seeking romantic advice in a letter written half a century ago – but when she winds up meeting the woman all those years later, she gets swept up in an adventure that changes her life in many ways.


As a hard – working fact checker for The New Yorker Magazine, Sophie (Seyfried) is most definitely a young woman with both career and personal aspirations. Professionally, she wishes to become a published writer – unfortunately, she's so good at her job, that her boss the editor (Oliver Platt) isn't terribly inclined to want to lose her in that role. Personally, she wants to fall in love and get married – to that end, at least, she's well on her way to reaching her goal. Or so it would appear. Victor, her fiancé, is a driven Italian chef at a successful restaurant in Manhattan who is so focused on his work that he pays little attention to her. Nevertheless, she joins Victor on what will be for him a working vacation in Italy, where he will meet with different suppliers for his restaurant.

Arriving in the town of Verona, Sophie decides to play the role of tourist while Victor is busy working. Wandering about, the stumbles upon an unusual spot where a number of young women like her are congregating – it is a place called Juliet's Garden, at the supposed former residence of Juliet Capulet, from Shakespeare's classic play, Romeo & Juliet. In the garden, she finds young women writing letters seeking advice on romance and posting them on the garden wall where another woman collects the letters in a basket at the end of the day. Following the woman, she discovers that she is one of a team of women called "Juliet's Secretaries" – when there is a letter with a return address, they will write a response and send it to the writer of the original letter. Fascinated by this, she offers her writing services to the team to help respond to some of the letters. They gratefully accept this offer, and Sophie eagerly begins crafting a variety of replies, until one day, she happens upon an overlooked letter that was written 50 years ago; containing a return address, she immediately sets out to respond to its author – a teenager (at the time) who is torn between two lovers, one British, the other Italian.

Claire (Redgrave), the author of this old letter, suddenly shows up in Verona with her grandson, Charlie. She is there partly to meet Sophie and thank her for the reply, but also partly because now that she's a widow, she wants to set out to try to find Lorenzo, her long lost Italian former lover, for whom she still pines. Claire invites Sophie to join her on her quest; realizing that Victor is so totally preoccupied with his own business and will barely miss her, Sophie accepts Claire's rather unusual and gracious offer, much to the immense aggravation of Charlie, who feels that Sophie has no business butting-in to her life, particularly on this matter and at this stage of his grandmother's life. Nevertheless, the three all set out in Charlie's rented car to drive around much of Tuscany to try to locate Lorenzo. But if they do find him, what impact will this have on both Claire and Sophie, especially in regard to Sophie's engagement with an increasingly distant Victor?


If you are a sucker for the types of romantic comedies that were done in the 1930's, '40's and '50's, then this is certainly a movie for you. This is the type of movie that's unapologetically formulaic and has been dipped big vat of super-viscous romance to make it even extra appealing as the ultimate chick flick – not that it necessarily needed it. Remember, this is from Gary Winick, the same director who brought you ladies such chick-friendly fare as "Bride Wars" and "13 Going On 30". This movie opens in mid – May and if you ladies are looking for a Girls' Night Out, then this might very well be the perfect flick to include somewhere during the proceedings.

Even if you don't care for the movie itself, another reason to go is for the breathtaking background beauty of Tuscany while the characters' travel throughout the region; if their form of a Chamber of Commerce is looking to encourage tourism in that area, a travelogue could not have served any more perfectly. Having never seen "Under The Tuscan Sun" (another chick flick. Coincidence? I think not!), I can't compare the scenic shots between the two movies, but it would certainly be hard to beat what you see in "Letters To Juliet". I highly recommend you see this movie if for no other reason that it will simply make you feel better. It's almost too bad that it opens the weekend after Mother's Day because this would make a good mother & daughter day out since it has plenty of romance to appeal to both older and younger women.

For this class, there were actually two interviews: one before the screening and one after. The one before the screening was with director Gary Winick; he went first because he had another promotional engagement later in the evening and had to leave early. One of the interesting things that we found out from this interview was that while the movie was based on a similarly – titled book, the whole "Letters To Juliet" thing is actually true and not just some conceit invented for the sake of either the book or the movie. For more information, refer to the link below:

It is also a tradition to put small love letters on the walls (which is done by the thousands each year), which are however regularly taken down by employees to keep the courtyard clean

The second interview was with one of the producers, Caroline Kaplan. She spoke about the casting of the movie, mentioning that the character of Charlie wasn't cast until the very last minute – in fact, they had already started shooting some of the movie while still auditioning actors for the role. Although Oliver Platt is in the movie, he's just in two scenes in New York, at the beginning and near the end of the movie; he did not get a screen credit for his role because he did it as a favor to the director (they went to college together). Kaplan also spoke about how prohibitively expensive it can be to use music in a movie – you have to pay royalties to both the publisher and the performer and if you use the song over opening or closing credits, it's even more expensive because more of the song (if not all of it) is being used.