Saturday, June 05, 2010

Letters from Juliet - a movie review

I was going to wait until we get to Romeo and Juliet to mention this movie, which (as the title indicates) is tangentially related to that play, but I am concerned it might exit the theatres before then, and I wouldn't want you all to miss it. And I am really not kidding there - I have actually seen this one several times, because I like it so very, very much.

Similar to Enchanted and Leap Year (both of which star Amy Adams, incidentally), this movie is one of those romances where the heroine believes herself in love with one man at the beginning, only to travel to a foreign country where she meets and has an adventure with another man, who proves to be her One True Love, although they of course rub each other the wrong way at first, and their entire adventure takes only a few days.

I happen to adore this trope, for whatever reason, but this movie gets it 100% right, in part because of the "adventure" involved: In this case, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) - a fact checker for The New Yorker who wants to be a writer (and you know I love that trope as well!) - goes to Verona with her fiancé, Victor, on a holiday that quickly skews to business for him. There, she meets Charlie (Chris Egan) because she has found and answered a letter written by a woman named Claire 50 years earlier - and Charlie is there with his grandmother, Claire, who is hoping to find her long lost first love, Lorenzo, to apologize for standing him up. Wanting to help Claire, she accompanies them on Claire's quest and involves this adorable scene in which Charlie is transfixed by her writing and declares her to be "a writer, not a fact-checker". Sadly, embedding has been disabled.

The movie includes footage of Verona, Sienna, and the Tuscan countryside, all of which is gorgeous, and Vanessa Redgrave is charming (and gorgeous!) as Claire - and her real-life husband, Franco Nero, is smokin' hot. But I digress. There is footage of the courtyard containing Juliet's balcony, including her statue (it's good luck to grab her breast for a photo), and there is one specific reference to the play itself, which can be seen in this short clip, where Charlie says what he would do if he were in Romeo's shoes.

In one scene, Charlie and Sophie lie in the grass to look at the stars, quoting Shakespeare - Hamlet's "Doubt thou the stars are fire", to be precise. This film has it all - excellent romantic chemistry, a wonderful "quest", a lovely romance between Redgrave and Nero, an extremely entertaining turn by Gael Garcia Bernal as Sophie's fiancé, gorgeous scenery, humor, and a terrific soundtrack. In the screenings I've seen, people just sit there listening to the closing song or chatting with their companions or nearest neighbors - nobody wants to spring up and rush out (except for the occasional bathroom-seeker), hoping to keep the magic alive just a bit longer.

Um, yeah - I guess you could call this a big thumbs up from me. If it's your blend of tea, see it before it moves on.

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