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Romance by numbers

(Summit Entertainment)


Romance by numbers

Letters to Juliet lets unbelievable romance remain so

Letters to Juliet isn't based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, but it very well could be. From the initial baseless conflict between the two leads to a sudden (and equally baseless) discovery of affection, romance doesn't get more paint-by-numbers than this. Were it not for a couple of winning performances and a gorgeous Italian setting, it would be totally unsalvageable.

Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) would like to be a happily married writer; instead she is an unhappily engaged fact checker. When she and her fiancé Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal) travel to Verona for a "pre-honeymoon" (their sleeping arrangement accounts for the PG rating), she discovers an opportunity to fulfill both her wishes. Victor's enthusiasm for his trade as a chef causes him to neglect his girlfriend in favor of cheese tastings and wine auctions. Left alone to wander the "city of love" (I thought that title belonged to Paris?), Sophie stumbles upon the fabled home of Juliet Capulet where women leave letters for the patron saint of lost love (there's no "letters to Romeo" because men wouldn't do something so lame). Soon she discovers a letter more than 50 years old and determines to reunite the writer (Vanessa Redgrave) with the man she walked away from. The only problem is the writer's stuffy grandson, Charlie (Christopher Egan), who objects to the whole business.

While the premise of Letters to Juliet isn't so bad, the execution is abominable. For no explainable reason, Sophie and Charlie take an immediate dislike to one another and proceed to exchange insults. They do this until the film's half-way point when Charlie, in a whiplash of character development, begins to woo Sophie. The subplot wherein Redgrave tries to locate the Lorenzo she left so many years before out of 75 possible Lorenzos provides a few funny moments, but its conclusion is as corny and unbelievable as the main storyline.