Alicia & Ashley open those Letters from Juliet

Two reviews of the new Amanda Seyfried drama “Letters from Juliet” today. Seems, though Alicia’s review is slightly more positively-skewed, it’s a fairly humdrum flick — with the cheesiness and predictability undoing the good work of it’s pretty lead.

Alicia’s Review : Letters from Juliet

Amanda Seyfried is really making a name for herself as a great romantic lead. She charmed us in ”Mamma Mia!”, made (some – it spared us frozen-hearted) people cry in ”Dear John”, and now she’s bringing her natural beauty to another letter writing film, ”Letters to Juliet”.

Seyfried plays Sophie, who travels to Italy for what is supposed to be a romantic holiday with her fiancee Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal). Unfortunately restaurateur Victor is more interested in checking out the local produce, so Sophie is left to sightsee Verona by herself. While visiting the house of Juliet, where Shakespeare’s character supposedly met Romeo, she discovers a volunteer group who call themselves the ‘Secretaries of Juliet’. This group of women reply to every letter left by love lorn women, who are all hoping to get advice from the fictional Juliet.

When Sophie discovers an old letter left behind some 50 years before, she feels compelled to reply. Sophie’s letter inspires Claire (Vanessa Redgrave) to travel back to Italy with her grandson Charlie (Christopher Egan) to search for her long lost Italian love, and Sophie joins them on their quest.

With themes of old love, new love, Shakespearian tragedy, letter writing, and a foreign adventure, Letters to Juliet is deeply romantic, bordering on cheesy at times. But amongst the few eye-rolling moments, there is a sweet film with a great cast.

Amanda Seyfried always brings a natural and somewhat unexpected quality to each of her roles, and she does it again with the character of Sophie.

I almost didn’t recognise former Home and Away star Chris (sorry I mean “Christopher”) Egan, with his extremely posh English accent he could easily pass for a Brit. Liam Hemsworth better watch out, because Chris is very charming as the stuck-up Charlie, whose stiff demeanor soon melts away.

And Vanessa Redgrave is, of course, wonderful as Claire, who is nervous and excited as she follows her heart for the first time.

If you’re a hopeless romantic, dreaming of a long lost love or hoping for a new one, ”Letters to Juliet” will be just what you need. Don’t forget the tissues!

Ashley’s Review : Letters from Juliet

Girl goes to Italy with distracted fiance. Girl finds letter from decades earlier written by a woman that ditched her lover. Girl sets out on a quest to find the writer of the letter and finds a snarky British guy (a la Simon Cowell) in the process. This is essentially the plotline of ”Letters to Juliet”.

Vanessa Redgrave gives a lovely performance as Claire, the writer of the decades old letter, and makes the film slightly palatable, it’s just too bad the film doesn’t revolve around her. The new romedy “it” girl, Amanda Seyfried (”Dear John”) is Sophie, a researcher / journalist who is engaged to Victor, played by the surprisingly irritating Gael Garcia Bernal (”Babel”). Bernal runs around like a ten year old with a severe, untreated case of ADHD playing a chef obsessed with food and only a little interested in his love, Sophie.

Bored waiting around for Victor, Sophie visits the courtyard where the legendary Juliet met her Romeo. The wall in the courtyard is filled with letters, asking for Juliet’s help. The Secretaries of Juliet write the responses, a sort of Relationship Help column of Verona. The Secretaries say they’d like Sophie’s help writing / translating letters in English, which is laughable because almost all of the women speak pretty perfect English – maybe they just have trouble writing in English?

Sophie comes across a letter that was stuck behind a brick for decades from Claire (Redgrave) asking Juliet for help because she stood up her Italian boyfriend when they were supposed to run away together. Sophie feels compelled to write back. Her letter leads Claire and her overprotective grandson Charlie (Christopher Egan) to Italy to find her true love after all these years. Sophie runs into the duo and the three set off on a quest to see if Claire can find love again.

Egan does a decent job as the romantic lead, but between ”American Idol”, ”Dancing with the Stars”, Colin Firth in ”Bridget Jones’ Diary”….the snarky British guy (though Egan’s Australian) seems a little overused. It may have worked if the characters had more dimension, so I think the fault is more with writers Jose Rivera and Tim Sullivan than with the actors or director Gary Winick (”Bride Wars”). The characters, with the exception of Claire, are so one note that it’s of little consequence if everything works out in their favor, or not. There’s chemistry between Egan and Seyfried and they share a few sweet scenes, but overall the film lacks dynamic and a compelling storyline.

The rom / com genre is a crowded one and even Seyfried’s big doe eyes can’t generate enough emotional pull to make this one worth seeing.