Saturday, May 15, 2010

Movie Review: Letters to Juliet

To download to the audio version, right click here and choose "save as..." or "save link as..."

To listen, press the play button on the player below

Once upon a time there was a boy and a girl who loved each other very much. He asked her to run away and marry him. She agreed, but then she got cold feet and didn't show up at the appropriate time. Heartbroken she leaves a note for a fictional literary character who committed suicide over love asking for her advice. Fifty years later Miss Coldfeet's letter is found and acted upon by the Segreteria Di Giulietta or the Secretaries of Juliet. Sounds crazy, right? Maybe, but that is the basic outline of this week's movie Letters to Juliet starring Vanessa Redgrave as Miss Coldfeet and Amanda Seyfried as the advice giver.

Seyfried's character Sophie is in Italy with her finance Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal) on a pre honeymoon as Victor is about to open up his dream Italian restaurant in New York City where she works for the New Yorker magazine as a fact checker. He is more interested in checking out vendors and products for the upcoming opening than spending time with his love. While he's exploring a vineyard Sophie uses her time to visit the famed balcony in Verona where the story of Romeo and Juliet took place. This is where she discovers the Secretaries of Juliet and is welcomed in by the ladies who respond to letters left taped to the courtyard wall asking Juliet for love advice. Dear Abby and Ann Landers, eat your heart out!

After writing the response to Miss Coldfeet, actual name Claire, Sophie decides to hang with the Secretaries only to get confronted a week later by Charlie (Christopher Egan) Claire's grandson who is mad because Claire has come down from her home in England due to the letter. Sophie meets Claire and a decision is made to try to track down the lost love Lorenzo much to the chagrin of Charlie. This is where Sophie's skills as a fact checker come into play.

The three go gallivanting through the Italian countryside to try to reunite the estranged lovers. But what about Victor? Oh, he's excitedly off at a wine auction. He's so absorbed in the auction that he doesn't mind her traipsing around with the English grandma grandson team. They come to find out Lorenzo Bartolini is a very common name around Verona. Through their journey we get to see many, many beautiful views of the countryside. The Italy Tourism Bureau could use this film as a promotional piece showing off villas, vineyards, roadways and hillsides.

Three people trapped in a car for the better part of a week. Hmmmm....something's going to happen. You know the cars in Europe are generally smaller than their US counterparts. Either they are going to rip each other to shreds or they will become best buds. What will happen to our intrepid travelers? If you follow the breadcrumbs along the way you will know and in that way the movie was predictable. But, I still found the movie enjoyable. Can true love hold out for fifty years? Can Amanda Seyfried's eyes look anymore like Shrek's Puss-in-Boots' big eyes? How many Lorenzos will be contacted before the right one is found? Could the beautiful vistas of Italy be shown off any better? You'll have to watch for yourself. If not for the story, just the images shown alone are worth the viewing. BTW, if you saw the trailer you already know the answer to the BIG question.

The one part of the story that I found interesting was that while not known as the Secretaries of Juliet, The Juliet Club does exist. The idea of people writing to the character of Juliet for love advice is like people writing to Marcus Welby MD for medical advice (for those of you youngins who don't know, Marcus Welby was a fictional doctor on TV during the early and mid 70s). They have been doing this for a number of decades now as volunteer men and women respond to about 5000 letters annually from across the globe. They award the "Dear Juliet" prize on Valentines Day for the most compelling letter received the previous year and the "Writing for Love" for a love themed book. OK, so they must know something... If any of you have ever sent a note and received a response from one of the secretaries, I'd like to hear about it. I think after this film they'll be needing to hang out a help wanted sign to handle the influx of advice seekers sending Letters to Juliet.

The Movie Monkey

To subscribe to the audio podcast of the reviews via iTunes click here. Audio versions are released the following Wednesday.