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The Independent Critic

Amanda Seyfried, Vanessa Redgrave, Gael Garcia Bernal, Christopher Egan and Franco Nero
Gary Winick
Jose Rivera, Tim Sullivan
Rated PG
est. 90 mins.
Summit Entertainment
Deleted and extended scenes
Audio commentary with Director Gary Winick and Amanda Seyfried
The Making Of Letters To Juliet: In Italia
A Courtyard in Verona

 "Letters to Juliet" Review 
While Letters to Juliet is far from great cinema, it is a nice alternative for those seeking a break from 3D, CGI and hyped up action flicks including this weekend's other big release, Robin Hood.

Letters to Juliet starts Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia!, Chloe) as Sophie, a valued fact-checker for New Yorker Magazine who heads for Verona, Italy with her soon-to-be hubby, Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal, Bad Education and Babel), for a pre-honeymoon vacation. As is true for virtually anyone in a light romantic comedy/drama, Sophie aspires to more than being just a fact-checker and Verona provides the opportunity for an awesome story when she discovers a small group of Verona women who keep guard over a home reported to be connected to Juliet. You know? Shakespeare's romantically suicidal Juliet? Well, tradition has it that desperate women visit the home and leave notes, letters, questions, concerns, etc. in the cracks of the wall...sort of a wailing wall for the romantically challenged, if you will.

Sophie is quickly invited to participate in this select group and her first encounter has her uncovering a missive from 50 years back. When she responds to the letter, she unexpected finds herself in the company of the author, Claire (Vanessa Redgrave), and her companioning grandson, Charlie (Christopher Egan, Eragon).

Do you have any question where this film is going?

Of course not.

With such a romantic film, the emphasis isn't on originality nor even brilliant acting. The purpose of such a romantic film is to elicit feelings of warmth, goodness, love and intimacy for those in the audience.

While Letters to Juliet certainly doesn't fire on all cylinders, it is a genuinely feel-good, sweet, good-hearted and surprisingly innocent film featuring Seyfried in a role more reflective of her work in Mamma Mia! or Hairspray than her recent work as a seductress in Chloe. While her chemistry with Egan, which is supposed to grow as the film moves along, is never quite convincing, Seyfried herself simply exudes the sort of goodness and energy that works perfectly here.

Is it really acting? That's arguable, but it is genuinely entertaining.

While it was admittedly challenging to completely let go of the recent deaths of Michael and Lynn Redgrave while watching Vanessa, tis' a great testimony to Redgrave's skill as an actress that before long grief gave way to being completely swept up in the beauty of her story of getting a second chance at love with Lorenzo (Franco Nero). Redgrave's performance here is unquestionably the film's emotional core, and Redgrave embodies dignity with just the perfect amount of youthfulness and hope into her 65-year-old woman who still dreams of love. Franco Nero, whom we see far too little of these days, shines as well.

While the chemistry between Sophie and Charlie isn't particularly convincing, Egan still manages to leave an impression as he journeys from a guarded, somewhat sarcastic young man to one sort of tiptoeing around the idea of love. Gael Garcia Bernal is grossly under-utilized here, but makes more of his paper thin character than would have most actors.

While it would have been nice to see director Gary Winick take a few risks or, minimally, show a bit of imagination, sometimes a simple and straightforward love story is just what the doctor ordered. While Letters to Juliet certainly doesn't break any new ground, it does tread the old ground with tremendous heart, enthusiasm and enough sweetness to please couples and anyone else seeking a lighter, happier moviegoing experience this weekend.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic