Thursday, May 27, 2010
Finding joy in the search for lost love
Hollywood romances often succeed based on whether the audience likes the characters and cares about their story. Amanda Seyfried, starring in her fourth movie in less than a year, plays Sophie, the fiancee of Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal).
The couple is supposed to be enjoying their pre-wedding vacation in Italy, but Victor is a passionate restauranteur and is busy spending his time visiting cheese and wine suppliers and attending a wine auction. This must happen in order to propel Sophie's part of the story, but it is distracting to be expected to believe someone would neglect Amanda Seyfried in favor of some Asiago.
While Victor's away, Sophie notices a group of women, some in tears, writing letters and leaving them taped to a wall outside. Intrigued by the site, she follows a woman who collects the letters in a basket. She learns the woman is part of a group called the Secretaries of Juliet, who take up the responsibility of responding to all the messages. Because the film is set mostly in Italy, Sophie is soon offered to stay for dinner and soon is joining the secretaries each day. Sophie finds a letter which rested inside the wall, hidden behind a brick for decades and decides to write to the woman who penned it in the summer of 1957.
This brings the letter's author, Claire (Vanessa Redgrave) and her handsome young grandson, Charlie (Christopher Egan) to Italy to find her long lost love. Because it's a movie, Charlie is British and has the dapper, "GQ"-reading appearance and charming accent to prove it. He of course, detests Sophie immediately, but the attraction between them soon becomes a focus of the story.
Describing "Letters to Juliet" doesn't sell the picture because it makes it sound like a dime a dozen romance only young people could enjoy. The truth is the movie is that rare and special film which, to use a film criticism cliche, will delight young and old alike.
I went to this movie hoping for a pleasant love story, but it exceeds expectations in the most important ways. Sure it has all the formula elements of these types of movies which typically turn me into a cynic. There is the lavish two-week trip to Italy, Sophie is a fact-checker at "The New Yorker", which satisfies the rule of a magazine employee in a romantic film and the two men Sohpie is involved with have accents, but these cliches make the movie even more endearing because I was so affected by the performances and story I didn't care about the imperfections at all.
What I did care about was seeing Claire finding Lorenzo after 50 years and when the two long-lost lovers are finally reunited it is a truly joyous moment. So joyous in fact, I didn't mind watching another movie outdoor wedding reception, because I was so happy for the characters involved.
Redgrave and Seyfried share an excellent scene in which Claire tells Sophie about her some of her favorite memories of her time with Lorenzo. She tells the story so convincingly viewers are likely to feel along with her and possibly recall their own youthful bliss.