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May 23, 2010

Not-Quite-Review: Letters to Juliet


Warning: The following will, in fact, include spoilers for the movie. But really, if it isn't completely obvious to you how this movie is going to end, then apparently you've never seen another movie before, ever. So it barely counts as spoilers.

Okay, I was going to write an actual review, but then I read A.O. Scott's review in the Times and I pretty much agree with everything he says. So go read that, and then I'll add the following points:

1. Christopher Egan, who plays Charlie, half of the younger of the two couples whose story this movie tells, looks exactly, distractingly like Daniel Truhitte, better known as Rolfe from The Sound of Music. So let me give you some peace of mind about one thing: he does not, at any point, turn Amanda Seyfried or Vanessa Redgrave over to the Nazis. I know you were worried. I certainly was.

2. I've never been a big fan of Romeo and Juliet. I mean, it's Shakespeare. It's great. Obviously. But it's a tragedy, about dangerous prejudice and dumb teenagers, so I've never understood setting it up as this great love story. And the whole premise about women leaving letters asking Juliet for advice - and yes, I know this really happens, but still - seems absurd, because - really? Juliet is extremely low on my list of people from whom I'd want advice. I was afraid this would ruin the movie for me, but it didn't. The actual Juliet stuff doesn't come up much once the plot really gets going.

3. I'm always unsure about these romances in which one of the people is supposed to be with someone else, but this didn't bother me while watching, just afterward. And I think it was handled pretty well. Of course, part of me also wishes that Victor, the fiance, had been a more three-dimensional and sympathetic character, but then I'd be complaining more about Sophie's relationship with Charlie. So. I am fickle.

4. Scott mentions the Italian scenery, which was, of course, lovely, but it was the food and wine that really got me. So either make dinner reservations for after you see the movie or be ready to cook.

5. The cast was actually pretty amazing. I've been a fan of Amanda Seyfried since Veronica Mars, and it's nice to see her getting starring roles. Christopher Egan, once I got past the Sound of Music thing, was a revelation, and while I'm not quite ready to call him our generation's Hugh Grant, well, I'm considering it. Vanessa Redgrave was perfect, of course. And the fine supporting cast - Oliver Platt, Gael Garcia Bernal, Franco Nero - left me wanting more of them.

6. The big obstacle making Sophie and Charlie "hate" each other was Charlie's grandmother's quest to find her lost love. I felt like the movie wanted me to sympathize with Sophie here, but I was completely on Charlie's side. So, now that I think about it, the movie did a nice job of offering these two different points of entry, rather than making one of the positions completely ridiculous.

7. Lastly, I really liked the way they handled Sophie's work in relation to the two men. She didn't need a man to encourage her to pursue her dreams - she was going to write regardless of what Victor or Charlie said about it. And it wasn't that one of them believed in her and the other didn't. They both expressed confidence in her abilities and future. But Charlie really wanted to read her writing, because he was actually interested, whereas Victor couldn't be bothered to read a piece even when she specifically left it out for him. And that was the moment when Sophie made up her mind once and for all.

Posted by Kat at May 23, 2010 09:12 AM
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