Supposedly, the quixotic "Letters to Juliet” pivots on the heartrending tribulations of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. But the most intriguing twist of this cliched love story touches lightly on the long-running, on-screen, off-screen romance of Lancelot and Guenevere.
That twist comes in a moment of romantic alchemy that occurs late in the movie and slightly redeems the sappy machinations that happen before. So, it wouldn’t do to give too much away, except to say it involves the still-regal Vanessa Redgrave and some of the more graceful Arthurian undercurrents of her life.
Beyond that, "Letters to Juliet” is a clever premise that’s lost amid a sweep of lush picture-postcard scenery and a love triangle in which little chemistry is generated among the potential lovers.
The premise: In a courtyard in Verona, Italy, at the purported home of Juliet Capulet, is a stone wall on which young women from the world over affix letters to Shakespeare’s tragic heroine detailing their own woeful love stories. The letters are collected daily by volunteers, known as the "secretaries of Juliet,” and each missive receives a hand-written reply.
It’s an irresistible attraction to American tourist Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), in Italy on a holiday with fiance Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal), a chef-restaurateur. When it turns out Victor is more interested in wine auctions, cheese tastings and truffle digs than making moony eyes with Sophie, she sets off for Juliet’s courtyard.
Sophie, a fact-checker for New Yorker magazine who aspires to be a writer, smells a good story here. When she digs up a weathered, 50-year-old letter in an overlooked crevice of the wall, she’s off on a matchmaking mission that could change her life and her view of true love.