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Letters to Juliet (Summit Entertainment, PG)

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Shakespeare wrote about Italy and director Gary Winick put it on film. In this movie, the country and the people have a flavor of their own.

 

Italians can survive off of the necessities: wine, spaghetti, love. Gary Winick tastefully mixes those ingredients into a grandma-friendly romantic comedy. These days, few chick flicks are rated-PG like Letters to Juliet. Despite any unfulfilled sexual tension, the classic Italian countryside and quaint Verona become characters in this film that inspires European vacations and love affairs.

Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is a fact checker for The New Yorker who dreams of writing for the high-brow publication. She goes on a pre-wedding honeymoon in Verona, Italy, with her workaholic fiancée, Victor (Gael García Bernal), a chef who goes gaga over the local cuisine. Sophie would rather sightsee and explore. Instead of compromising, the couple goes their separate ways and Sophie uncovers a story that may change her career.

Romeo and Juliet are local stars in Verona. While Sophie is exploring the historic streets she finds Juliet’s house. Women congregate there to bawl and write notes under Juliet’s famous balcony, sticking their letters to the wall for Juliet to answer. Sophie follows a woman who gathers the notes and is introduced to the Secretaries of Juliet. The group is dedicated to responding to every letter with love advice. Sophie gets wrapped up in their duties and responds to a 50-something-year-old letter she finds hidden in the wall. Soon, the note’s author, Claire (Vanessa Redgrave), drags her grandson, Charlie (Christopher Egan), to Verona to search for Sophie and find a long lost Italian lover. This turns into a writing opportunity the fact checker can’t pass up. Sophie follows their journey and her heart.

Shakespeare wrote about Italy and Winick put it on film. In Letters to Juliet, the country and the people have a flavor of their own. Italy has such beautiful Tuscan vineyards and cobblestoned streets. Still, the few times you see Verona or the farmland’s distinct personality on screen, it is not enough. It’s just a sample. The opportunity was there, but the land usually just sat in the background. When a glimpse was long enough, it was glorious. If Winick directed a film in such a beautiful place, he should have taken more advantage of the scenes nature and history gave him for free. He treats romance the same way: The beautiful Seyfried and Egan aren’t as visibly passionate as the older folks in the film. The youth and good jokes are wasted on the old.

For a girls’ night or a grandma’s day out, Letters to Juliet will be good enough. Just don’t expect Winick to dramatically pan over beautiful Italy or recreate any romance novel fantasies. He leaves you wanting to go to Italy to get to know the country better and crave a more passionate relationship. | Alice Telios

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