THE BLOG
05/13/2010 08:41 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Movie review: Letters to Juliet

It's hard not to respond emotionally to the big moments in Letters to Juliet, in spite of the fact that they've already been given away in the trailers.

And yet this film by Gary Winick, which opens Friday, stumbles so frequently - whether by dawdling over clichéd montages or simply sucking up time with slack, witless writing - that you start focusing on all the little miscues that litter the film.

Like: Why is the editor of the New Yorker (Oliver Platt in a cameo) shown editing hard copies of stories? The guy doesn't even have a computer on his desk! This is 2010, not 1980.

And how are a magazine fact-checker and her fiancée, a chef who is about to open his own restaurant, able to afford a seemingly open-ended stay in Italy - one that finds the fact-checker actually checking into a second hotel room while still holding on to the first one?

Letters to Juliet is a would-be romantic comedy that has a lot of romantic feeling but very little funny writing. In some ways, it's identical to another piece of cardboard from earlier this year, Leap Year.

Amanda Seyfried plays Sophie, the aforementioned New Yorker fact-checker, who heads for Italy for a pre-wedding vacation with her fiancée Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal), a workaholic who is obsessed with his impending restaurant opening. They go to Verona, where he promptly ditches her to network with suppliers for his new venture.

So Sophie plays tourist alone and winds up at the home of the fictional Juliet Capulet. There she discovers the romance-novel version of the Wailing Wall: a place where unhappy women write letters to Juliet, asking for advice about their unfortunate love lives.

As Sophie watches, the letters are collected, then answered by a group of women known as the Secretaries of Juliet. (Another miscue: When Sophie first enters the Secretaries' office, she is mistaken for a temp who has been sent for to serve as an English translator. Yet it quickly becomes apparent that all of these Italian women speak perfect English.)

This review continues on my website.