Return to sender -- please
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, May 14, 2010
You've got to give the girl credit. In an age of communication dominated by e-mail, texting and tweets, the 24-year-old actress Amanda Seyfried -- star of "Dear John" and now "Letters to Juliet" -- seems to be on a one-woman quest to revive the lost art of letter writing. But if putting pen to paper is as much of a chore as watching her new movie, the stationery industry is doomed.
In "Letters," Seyfried plays Sophie, a fact checker for the New Yorker who dreams of becoming a writer. While vacationing in Verona, Italy, she wanders into the House of Juliet, a place where, according to custom, the lovelorn leave letters seeking romantic advice from Shakespeare's tragic heroine. Not that she's any kind of authority on the subject, and anyway, she's fictional. But never mind. A colorful group of older female volunteers answers every one.
Although Sophie hasn't figured it out yet, she herself is among the heartbroken. Her fiance, Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal), with whom she's traveling, just isn't that into her. A self-absorbed chef, he seems to be more in love with whatever bit of pasta, pastry, olive oil or wine he has just popped into his mouth. With a look Sophie wishes he'd reserve for her, Victor goes through the movie pronouncing everything edible "amazing" or "incredible." (Really, the guy could use a couple of new adjectives. I lost track after a dozen instances of each.)
Left on her own, Sophie naturally gravitates to the Miss Lonelyhearts at the House of Juliet, who take her under their nurturing wings.
But not as a client. After Sophie finds an old letter written by a British teenager named Claire who'd fallen in love with and then left an Italian boy named Lorenzo Bartolini -- a letter written in 1957, but never answered -- Sophie takes it upon herself to compose a reply. The gist of it is this: When it comes to love, it's never too late. That's not advice; that's a fortune cookie.
The next thing we know, Claire (Vanessa Redgrave), now a senior citizen, has shown up with her handsome but surly grandson Charlie (Christopher Egan), in search of the lost Lorenzo. Against Charlie's better instincts -- he thinks the whole thing is a dumb idea -- Sophie tags along as navigator and chronicler of the search. Although Charlie and Sophie bicker insufferably at first, they will soon be canoodling. The screenwriters having decided, in their infinite matchmaking wisdom, that it makes sense to substitute one good-looking jerk for another. It doesn't.
Some mild humor results from the fact that Lorenzo Bartolini is a popular Italian name. There's even a famous 19th-century sculptor with that name.
Without spoiling things, it can be said that Franco Nero plays the grown-up Lorenzo in question and that the Italian actor is married to Redgrave in real life. The couple, who wed in 2006, reunited in storybook fashion after a separation of 36 years, following an affair that began on the set of "Camelot" and produced a son.
Perhaps you see where all this is going.
If not, it's all there in the trailer. That's my advice to you, which doesn't even require a 44-cent stamp: Save yourself 10 bucks, and an hour and 45 minutes of your precious time.
Contains crude language and smoking.