From the Editor

Movie Review Archive

Thank you for checking out my movie review archive. I'm in the process of transitioning to something else, so I will no longer post new reviews to this blog. In the meantime, I will keep these reviews archived; these are from the fall of 2008 to April 2011. Please watch this blog for more info and keep in touch (you can still find me on Facebook and Twitter). Here's to more great movies!

Wes Singleton

North Texas Film Critics Association

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Letters to Juliet - B

Rated PG for brief rude behavior, some language and incidental smoking, 105 minutes

Warm, predictable "Letters to Juliet" features a magnificent Redgrave

Letters to Juliet” is a predictable, well-worn but wistful romantic comedy with some Italian flavor that works in large part due to a veteran actress in the cast. It’s a perfect late spring entry that will warm hearts before the onslaught of big summer blockbusters. Guys, do your duty and take your gal to see this after she sees “Iron Man 2” with you.

Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is a fact-checker and writer-wannabe who works for the New Yorker magazine. Longing for a change, she and her busy fiancĂ© Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal) take a vacation to Italy. While there, Sophie visits Verona, the setting for Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” and visits the statue of Juliet, where many come to leave love letters hoping to find an answer. Sophie finds an old, 50-year unanswered letter and with the help of the “secretaries of Juliet” writes back. Sophie ends up helping the letter’s writer, Claire (Vanessa Redgrave) and her grandson Charlie (Christopher Egan) trek across Italy to find her long-lost love Lorenzo and all are changed in the process.

Letters to Juliet” is the first appealing romantic comedy in recent memory that exudes genuine warmth and humanity. The direction from Gary Winick (“Bride Wars”) is lackluster. The romance between Sophie and Charlie is stale, undeveloped and doesn’t grab the audience as it should. Seyfried, of TV ‘s “Big Love” and the recent hit “Dear John,” and Egan, of TV’s “Kings” make for a rather bland pairing, but none of this is the main reason that “Letters to Juliet” works as well as it does.

The movie succeeds due to the affectionate, forlorn performance from veteran actress and Oscar-winner Vanessa Redgrave, who hold the movie together with her aplomb. It’s a larger part than the credits give her, and the magnificent Redgrave, playing against type in a conventional, mainstream film, steals every scene she’s in. When she does finally meet her long lost love, it provides the film’s most touching scene, a brief one played with minimal dialogue and amorous glances. It also helps that the older Lorenzo is played by renowned Italian actor Franco Nero, Redgrave’s real-life partner.

The Italian landscapes also play an important part in giving “Letters to Juliet” some beauty, and listen for that catchy Taylor Swift song that prominently mentions Juliet. Down the stretch, you won’t be surprised at all by the climax or the ending, but some of it’s fun getting there, especially in the road trip portion of the movie, as the trio (Seyfried, Egan and Redgrave) search for the right Lorenzo (“take him, TAKE HIM” says a wife humorously to them after they meet one of the Lorenzo’s). I wish the script also used a decent actor like Bernal better, but his underwritten (and a little annoying) part is nonessential to the story.

If it weren’t for the lovely, talented Redgrave, “Letters to Juliet” would be just another run-of-the-mill romantic comedy you’d have to suffer through, but fortunately she make it worth the price of admission. See it before the summer blockbusters invade the multiplexes.