Letters to Juliet (2010)

Rated: PG for brief rude behavior, some language and incidental smoking.
Length: 105 minutes.
Grade: C+BCC=C+
Budget: $30 million
Box Office: $83 million (53 U.S., 19 Intl., 11 DVD)

Written by: Jose Rivera (Trade, Motorcycle Diaries, ) and Tim Sullivan (Flushed Away)
Directed by: Gary Winick (Bride Wars, Charlotte’s Web, 13 Going On 30, Tadpole)
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Vanessa Redgrave, and Christopher Egan

Sophie is an aspiring writer who travels with her workaholic fiancĂ©e to Verona on a pre-honeymoon, where she discovers a group of women who give romantic advice to those who come to Juliet’s balcony asking for it. This leads to a grandmother and her grandson traveling to Italy in search of her long lost true love and a quest which gives Sophie both a story opportunity and romantic complications.

Entertainment Value: C+
The problem here is that the movie offers the hopes of greatness but winds up suffering from improbable character choices and periodically painful bad acting. It’s sad, really, because the story itself is fun and the lightness of the movie makes you want to like it more than it deserves. The most pivotal moment of the movie is completely unbelievable, even though the plot completely requires it.

Superficial Content: B
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sex/Nudity B, Violence A, Language B+
There is a lot of social wine-drinking, but no drunkenness. There are a couple of references to sexuality and some kissing. An unmarried couple shares a hotel room, but nothing is ever shown or even implied particularly. The language was perhaps most annoying only because in a movie which was otherwise virtually squeaky, a character quickly uses medium profanity (S) in the beginning and there is a middle-finger moment later, both unnecessary. This is PG-8 or so, and only girls older than that would care to watch it anyhow. It could easily have been a much lighter PG.

Significant Content: C
True love never dies, and you should always act on what your heart tells you. Destiny has a way of working its magic. Sometimes the most promising relationships start out poorly.

Artistic/Thought Value: C
The most interesting thing here is the idea that a passionate man can actually be something of a curse in disguise if he turns out to be more passionate about something else (like cooking and his restaurant) than he is about you. But the other hidden gem is the presentation of the secretaries of Juliet meeting a need that certainly can’t be monetized and yet is very helpful and even culturally shalom-building for the women they write to. It nicely pictures the unseen world lost when wives and mothers enter the workplace.

Discussion Questions:
~If you were rating movies, what rating would you give Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” especially given that it ends in such tragedy?
~Which do you think is worse: being married to someone who is just plain passionless or someone who is more passionate about something other than you?
~What impact on society comes from women working in ordinary jobs rather than doing all the sorts of pro bono things they might otherwise feel free to do, such as answer Juliet’s letters?
~Do you believe in true love? What about love at first encounter? How much of a successful marriage is from passion, from reason, and from commitment? Does God arrange marriages? How do you explain bad ones?
~Sophie observes that the most dangerous sign for her relationship is that both of them seem perfectly happy spending time on their pre-honeymoon doing different things. Is she right about this?
~Charlie is initially angry at Sophie for her meddling and for leading his grandmother into a wild goose chase. Is he right to be angry? What sort of responsibility do aspiring advice-givers have for what people do with their suggestions?
~What, exactly, is adultery? Are any of the characters in this movie guilty of it? What about just having divided loyalties or alienation of affection?

Overall Grade: C+
“A Good Year” was a more entertaining and more meaningful version of what I think this film is trying to accomplish. That said, it’s a fairly clean romantic comedy about what else: true love.

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