“In fair Verona, where we lay our scene…”
The influence of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” reaches far beyond the setting of “Letters to Juliet,” as Amanda Seyfried’s Sophie works to reunite star-crossed lovers while finding herself directly in the plot of her very own impossible love story. I must admit, I jumped at the chance to see a sneak preview of “Letters to Juliet” when I learned it would be playing at the Green Hills Theater, though I kept a healthy amount of skepticism going in, as I had just been burned by “The Backup Plan” at that same theater just two weeks before. The formula to a successful romantic comedy is a very simple one: boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, an unforeseen circumstance threatens the very existence of boy and girl’s newfound romance before boy (or sometimes girl) swoops in to save the day, reclaim their love, and wrap everything up in a nice, neat little package that leaves moviegoers feeling warm, fuzzy, and satisfied. While this formula also accounts for the frequent predictability that some rom-coms struggle against, it is still the time-honored method for creating a cinematic experience equivalent to that of eating a piece of chocolate cake. You know what it’s going to taste like going in…I mean, c’mon - yellow cake, chocolate icing - what ever changes about a piece of chocolate cake? Yet the sweetness, the texture, the sugary delight, if all the ingredients are put together right, are just as satisfying as the very first time you ate a piece of chocolate cake. And “Letters to Juliet,” while unarguably utterly predictable at times, has just the right mix of the just the right ingredients to leave you feeling as though you just consumed the most perfect piece of chocolate cake ever baked.
A large part of that is due to the film’s two leading ladies – Amanda Seyfried, who over the past year has blossomed into this generation’s “America’s Sweetheart,” and the impeccable Vanessa Redgrave, who, in my opinion, can do no wrong. Elegant, classy, subtle, yet such a deeply layered actress that she can make you feel every emotion she’s feeling just by the expression on her face. The two actresses, while from two totally different generations of Hollywood starlets, achieve beautiful chemistry and interaction throughout the entire film.
Seyfried’s Sophie is first introduced to Redgrave’s Claire while vacationing in Verona, when she discovers a letter penned by Claire to Juliet, one of thousands of missives left at the fictional lover's Verona courtyard. The letter, pleading for Juliet’s guidance, had been hidden from sight and thereby had gone unanswered for 50 years, prompting Sophie to write back in the hopes that Claire is still alive and has possibly been reunited with “Lorenzo,” her lover that she writes so passionately about. Enter Claire’s grandson Charlie (played by relative newcomer Christopher Egan), a seemingly cold, harsh, obnoxious young man, set on squelching his grandmother’s plans of searching for Lorenzo, while simultaneously accompanying her on the journey so as to look out for her. Sophie and Claire quickly hatch a plan to comb the countryside in search of Lorenzo, determined to find the answer to the question: “What if you had a second chance to find true love?” The answer to the question is played out in parallel stories, one starring Claire and Lorenzo and the other starring Sophie and Charlie, as his devotion to his grandmother soon reveals the big, thumping heart that beats underneath his tough exterior. Will the boy get the girl? And even though you almost certainly know the answer (if you’ve seen the previews at all), the lovable characters, the picturesque backdrop and the underlying theme of Happily Ever After still make “Letters to Juliet” a very charming journey to take.
It is literally impossible to walk out of this movie NOT smiling, and for us single ladies, to not feel as though maybe, just maybe, our Prince Charming is out there waiting for us to find him, and has been all along. And even though I drove off into the sunset by myself at the end of the movie, I did so with a little extra pep in my step and hope in my heart. “Letters to Juliet” is a feel-good, modern-day fairytale that I predict will be THE romantic comedy of the summer.
My final word? “It’s a love story – baby, just say YES!”
“Letters to Juliet” opens in Nashville and in theaters nationwide on May 14th.