If you'd told me at the start of the year that I would only like one of the two major releases this weekend, either "Robin Hood" or "Letters To Juliet," I would not have been surprised. But if you'd told me that the film made by Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe would be the one I found to be an intolerable collection of cliches and poor script decisions, I would never have believed you.
Gary Winick has demonstrated some ability with this sort of material. "Tadpole" was an interesting small-scale film, and "13 Going On 30" was a shameless riff on "Big" that worked because Jennifer Garner made it work. Winick also has "Bride Wars" to answer for, though, so he's certainly not without his sins to answer for. This sort of breezy romantic film seems like one of the easiest things in the world to pull off, and certainly there are dozens of them a year. Most of them are terrible, though, dependent on truly stupid and unlikeable characters, focused on the idea that women are incomplete without a man, incapable of anything that doesn't involve "romance." I find it amazing that women actually watch "chick flicks," because so many of them seem to genuinely hate women and treat them like thin-skulled creeps.
"Letters To Juliet," which takes its basic inspiration from a true story, is a gentle, charming story that features a winning lead performance from Amanda Seyfried, who is finally starting to carry films on her own, and who proves here that she's absolutely capable of doing so. She plays Sophie, a fact checker for The New Yorker, a girl on the verge of marriage to Victor (Gael García Bernal), and from the very start of the film, they allow her play a credible mix of strength and insecurity that has more to do with her age and experience than it does with her gender. She and Victor have a pre-honeymoon trip planned to Verona, although they have very different ideas about what they're going to be going to be doing once they get there.