There is nothing like sitting in the dark and drooling over an irresistible leading character or sniffling over a love story. And, Letters to Juliet did have that effect except for the fact that the leading character was a country rather than a person and the love story sparked a misfire. Letters to Juliet is set mostly in the gorgeous Italian countryside (drool) and stars the stunning Amanda Seyfried but they didn’t give her much to work with in the love interest department (sniffle).
Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) travels to Italy for a pre-wedding vacation with her fiancé Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal) and finds him absorbed more with the food and wine than with her. I understand his food obsession, I have it too, but frankly, I couldn’t see anything in him that was attractive from the get go. I was willing to suspend disbelief and decide that love has its own heart. Kinda half hoping that they wouldn’t actually work it out and she’d rock the town with her power and insight. Instead, she fills her time with sightseeing which brings her to a shrine of sorts to Shakespeare’s Juliet. Here, women pour out their hearts and stick them to the wall where a gaggle of Italian romantics gather the letters and respond. Fantasy love stories and heartbreaks ensue.
There are moments of truth and glimpses of love and even a few laughs but the character with the most depth was the landscape. The moments that took my breath away were not those that pitted fate against duty nor kisses almost tasted (even though I am a hopeless romantic who craves nothing more that the moment of suspension when chemistry meets before my eyes). Instead, the picturesque rides in the car over hills and valleys and walks into vineyards stole the moments.
Sophie has not one, but two, chances at love for the viewers benefit but neither Bernal nor the interloper Christopher Egan who plays Charlie can quite capture the screen the way she can. Their handsome faces can’t quite live up to the charisma it would take to contain her beauty. Egan comes close and I know he is capable of a still and quiet confidence from his performance in TV’s Kings but still, not quite. It is Vanessa Redgrave who plays the aged romantic Grandma who steels the scene without even trying. Her ageless beauty and grace seem to shine a light on how little those whipper snappers know of love lost and longing.
Don’t get me wrong, a lovely and sweet romantic escape to Italy to watch stunning leading ladies carry a movie all by themselves is a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. Just as long as you aren’t longing to be swept off your feet.