Letters to Juliet

Movie Information

The Story: A young would-be writer helps an aging widow track down her long lost love in Italy. The Lowdown: A harmless, yet by-the-book romance that's plagued by inconsequence.
Score:

Genre: Romance
Director: Gary Winick (Bride Wars)
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Vanessa Redgrave, Christopher Egan, Gael García Bernal
Rated: PG

If you happened to listen to the first installment of Elitist Bastards Go to the Movies, a new podcast featuring Ken Hanke and myself available on the Mountain Xpress Web site, you may recall that we predicted the biggest problem with Gary Winick’s Letters to Juliet would likely be that its trailer gave away the entire movie in about 90 seconds. Now, a couple of days after having actually sat through the film—and with as little bragging as possible—I can say we were spot on.

If you’ve seen the trailer, you know the film follows a young American girl named Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) who is vacationing in Verona with her somewhat distracted fiancé Victor (Gael García Bernal). After finding a dusty, old letter left at the home of the fictional Juliet, Sophie is inspired to help an aging Brit named Claire (Vanessa Redgrave) and her chagrined grandson Charlie (Christopher Egan, Eragon) track down the lady’s old flame from 50 years earlier.

And if you’ve seen the trailer, you also know that Sophie becomes dissatisfied with her soon-to-be hubbie, begins to fall for Charlie, all while Claire finds her lost love. You’ve also seen the whole movie. Now, I hate to disparage a film based solely on its trailer, something that has zero to do with the film on a practical level. But at the same time, it’s a symptom of something greater, since even if I had never laid eyes on the film’s trailer, within the first 20 minutes of the movie I still could’ve figured out how Letters to Juliet would pan out. It’s the kind of predictable reserved solely for Hollywood romances.

Efforts are made to shake things up here and there, but they’re mostly cosmetic. There’s at least an attempt at the tried-and-true witty repartee that’s been a staple of the Hollywood romance flick for ages, but it never quite gels. A lot of this is due to casting. Seyfried could probably have pulled this kind of role off, except she has no one to play against. Bernal is at best wasted and at worst—very, very worst—turned into a woundup Bronson Pinchot clone, while Egan lacks the charisma or magnetism to be convincing as a smarmy-yet-likable romantic lead. The screenplay is no help, since these are the kind of inherently off-putting movie types who can leave the country for weeks on end with no real-world repercussions whatsoever. At the very least, they could have been stylish, but the film can’t even afford them that. Instead, we get a cast of dull, drab characters, with nothing unique, conspicuous or exceptional about the lot of them.

Letters to Juliet plays it safe throughout its entire running time. Sure, it’s an easy way to make a harmless little movie, but it’s also the quickest route to being forgotten. Rated PG for brief rude behavior, some language and incidental smoking.

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4 thoughts on “Letters to Juliet

  1. DrSerizawa

    [b]you may recall that we predicted the biggest problem with Gary Winick’s Letters to Juliet would likely be that its trailer gave away the entire movie in about 90 seconds.[/b]

    This is a mystery to me. Why do they do this? Trailers used to last maybe a minute and only showed teasers to stimulate interest. Now it seems that half the trailers last nearly 5 minutes and basically show the entire plot. Who makes these decisions? It just seems crazy to me. I saw the trailer to this very flick a couple of weeks ago and turned to my wife and said, “Well, there’s another one we won’t have to see.”

    No really. What idiots have decided that revealing the entire movie in the trailer is a good idea?

  2. Ken Hanke

    This is a mystery to me. Why do they do this? Trailers used to last maybe a minute and only showed teasers to stimulate interest. Now it seems that half the trailers last nearly 5 minutes and basically show the entire plot. Who makes these decisions?

    Trailers have always varied in length — some used to run three minutes. Now there are actual rules from the MPAA governing length and all but a small number (per studio) have to be two-and-a-half-minutes or under. Unless it’s Avatar (one of Fox’s long trailers for the year), they only seem like five minutes. (It’s worse if you see a lot of movies because you see the same trailers over and over.)

    The Juliet trailer is in the 2′ 20″ range, if memory serves (I had a better feel for this when I used to build trailer packs every week). But it does pack the whole plot into that trailer.

    What idiots have decided that revealing the entire movie in the trailer is a good idea?

    People who cut lousy trailers. Trailers should give you some idea of the movie and its tone — and then intrigue you to want to see more. Revealing too much has become all too common. I don’t know if the fault lies in marketing or with the people doing the trailer. (Few filmmakers have control over their trailers — last I knew anyway.) It’s also common for trailers to have things that never make the final film (this isn’t new) and in the case of movies that are still being heavily worked on — Original Sin comes to mind — sometimes have plot points that never materialize in the film at all.

  3. TokyoTaos

    I can’t help but think that there’s been a ton of marketing research on this (after all the bottom line is to get as many people to shell out $8-$12 as possible) and that the sad conclusion is that people these days prefer seeing the entire plot in their trailers.

    Maybe I’m just being cynical?

  4. Ken Hanke

    the sad conclusion is that people these days prefer seeing the entire plot in their trailers.

    Maybe I’m just being cynical?

    Actually, with certain types of audiences, you’re probably dead on the money. I always marvel at how people laugh uproariously at things that they saw in the trailer — not that some things aren’t funny multiple times, but most of these things don’t strike me as being among them. Yet people are constantly telling me they want to see a scene they saw in a trailer and I find it slightly perplexing.

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