Forgive me if this sounds petty, but I've got a big problem with the fundamental premise at the heart of Letters to Juliet. Namely, who on earth would ask Shakespeare's Juliet for romantic advice? She's a girl who killed herself at the age of 13 over a boy she'd known for a matter of weeks-- her story is a cautionary tale of all the ways that love can go wrong. And yet, Letters to Juliet not only asks us to believe that reasonable people would do this, but gives us two major characters-- young Sophie, played Amanda Seyfried, and elderly Claire, played by Vanessa Redgrave-- who honestly believe Juliet would have valid romantic advice for them.
If you can get on board with this premise, though, you'll probably be just fine with Letters to Juliet, which features plenty of beautiful Italian scenery and food, comforting pop montages, Amanda Seyfried's glowing blond hair, and a satisfying number of close-up shots of Gael Garcia Bernal. It's harmless and pretty and utterly predictable, but kind of a waste of time for anyone who's ever seen, well, any other romantic comedy set in a beautiful location. You may find yourself booking a ticket to Italy's wine country without any memory of the movie that inspired you to do it in the first place.
The fantasy starts early and back in New York, where Sophie is a fact checker for The New Yorker and is engaged to hot chef Victor played by mega-hot Gael Garcia Bernal, a man who is marked from the beginning as the wrong guy (this, simply, is not possible). The two jet off to Verona as a pre-honeymoon, where Victor spends his time seeking out new Italian food suppliers, and Sophie, because she is an idiot, is not interested in joining him on exclusive tours of boutique wineries or dairy farms. Instead Sophie moons around "Juliet's balcony" and watches lovelorn women writing letters to the doomed heroine, eventually finding a 50-year-old letter written by Claire, heartbroken that she jilted the Italian man who was her one true love.
Sophie contacts Claire and soon finds herself driving around the Italian countryside with the septugenarian and her priggish grandson Charlie (Christopher Egan), whose skepticism naturally made him my favorite character. No one but Charlie takes the time to wonder if it's truly a good idea for an elderly woman to seek out a man she hasn't seen in 50 years, or to ask whether or not this Lorenzo (eventually played by Franco Nero) even remembers her-- and for his logic he's rewarded with total scorn, both from Sophie and director Gary Winick. Of course, Sophie and Charlie eventually start falling for each other, simply because that's what happens in this kind of movie; there's just no place for cynics in this world.
Of course, I went into this movie looking for a cynic to identify with, and softer viewers, or those more susceptible to travel porn, will probably be just fine watching Sophie and Claire gaze up at the stars or moan about what misery live without love could be. If you are this kind of person, you know it already. If you're not, Letters to Juliet won't even try to convince you-- go ahead and buy another ticket to Iron Man 2 instead.
Reviewed By: Katey Rich