LETTERS TO JULIET takes place in what I like to call Magic Italy, a country only seen in Hollywood movies: sun-dappled vineyards stretch from hill to rolling hill and winding cobblestone streets are packed with quaint, friendly locals. "Our country is your playground!" Italians say to any foreigners on holiday. "Please accept this 300-year-old recipe. Ciao bella!"
Magic Italy is, in a word, awesome. Letters to Juliet delivers postcard porn for armchair tourists by the gondola-load, and it's pretty hard to resist the fantasy of a Europe untouched by modernity and untainted by tourism.
There's a story here, too, but it's decidedly beside the point. Successful New Yorker fact checker Amanda Seyfried sets off to Verona on a pre-honeymoon with her chef fiancé, Gael García Bernal. When they arrive, Bernal's too caught up seeking out delicious food for his restaurant to pay any attention to Seyfried (most of Bernal's screen time involves him interrupting her to eat something), so she heads to Juliet's house (yes, that Juliet), where countless women paste letters to a wall asking Juliet for relationship advice. (Who better to ask for advice than a long-dead fictional 13-year-old?) Seyfried finds and answers a letter from Vanessa Redgrave before improbably joining Redgrave and her handsome but prickly grandson (Christopher Egan) in searching all over Magic Italy for the paramour the old woman lost long ago.
Juliet sets up its goals early and knocks them down in predictable fashion. We never find out why Redgrave's old flame is so important to her, nor why Bernal and Seyfried are together in the first place—but it doesn't matter. This is not a story of conflict but one of Love™ in its simplest, vaguest form. Just turn your brain off and enjoy Magic Italy. Ciao bella!