Letters to Juliet Review

You know that whole “Men Are from Mars, Women are From Venus” thing? That’s Letters to Juliet. It has nothing to do with the difference between men and women in terms of plotting or story, but how it will split the opposing sexes right down the middle.

Women will see this an endearing love story, showing there is no doubt true love will always be found despite time, distance, and place. It’s meant to be, and it will happen, but you have to go for it.

On the other hand, a male will be on the opposing side. They see an engaged woman named Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) taking a trip to Italy with her fiance Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal), a sort of pre-honeymoon/business trip to help him find suppliers for his new restaurant. This woman is completely uninterested in his hard work opening a new restaurant in the middle of New York, goes off on her own, starts kissing another guy, and breaks off the whole marriage.

Never mind that Victor’s salary apparently was able to pay for an entire week in Italy. Never mind he’s a hard worker. Let’s totally ignore that his ingredient selection could make or break his business. It’s obviously a much better choice to go with the guy you just met for a whole week, apparently because Taylor Swift said so.

That pretty much covers the divide.

At its heart, Letters to Juliet is touching, the far more interesting story being that of Sophie replying to a 50-year old letter left in Verona, then traveling around the country with that letter’s author Claire (Vanessa Redgrave) as she searches for her lost love. It leads to some wonderful location photography, the rolling hills, soft sunlight, and saturated color beautiful to look at.

That actually has merit, but Sophie’s story does not. It’s so hackneyed and ridiculous, even the movie acknowledges it right at the end, Sophie actually appearing on a balcony over her new love *gasp* just like Juliet. Doesn’t it always happen that way? There is nothing here beyond the photography and a few “awws” in regards to Claire, the latter of which should have been the only thing going on here.

And just to clarify, if a guy ever took his fiance to Italy for a pre-honeymoon and kissed another woman, he’d have a chair thrown at him. Just sayin’.

Movie ★★☆☆☆ 

It’s hard to say what’s wrong with this encode from Summit. All of the scenery is typically stunning, resolving immense levels of clean detail far into the frame: Trees, flowers, bushes, whatever the case may be. The same goes for the aerial shots of Verona, the tiles of the roofs at 26:20 truly spectacular. It’s as if each one is clearly visible.

It’s an utter mystery then what happened to everything else. It’s not the AVC encode, which maintains a steady bitrate, and is more than adequate, but the faces here look like they’re covered in chalk. It’s not the waxy look typically associated with DNR, although the very limited, hardly noticeable layer of grain does raise some suspicions. It’s right from the start as Oliver Platt and Seyfried are in the office together at 4:20, their faces completely smoothed over and soft.

It’s an utterly bizarre effect, some minimal detail on clothing coming through, while absolutely nothing else shows. You’ll see this from time to time, an actor/actress having something in their contract that lines and wrinkles can’t show, but many of these actors are young, and it affects everybody in the film. At times, their faces almost look like they’ve had some kind of dithering applied, causing rough patches to appear around the corners. This happens everywhere, from close-ups to mid-range stuff, such as the ugliness inside the car at 34:11. At least the latter has an excuse of being a green screen effect.

It’s a shame too, not just because of the location footage looking great, but the warmly tinted colors are beautiful. The same goes for the black levels, which despite the level of lost dimensionality in regards to detail, maintain a stable level of depth in the image on their own. It’s a travesty nothing else offers an assist.

Video ★★★☆☆ 

There’s nothing wrong with the audio here, a standard DTS-HD affair with a bit of heightened ambiance. The surrounds are constantly active with the sounds of birds chirping or light insect calls, setting the mood for those wide open fields. Brief shots outside New York do much the same, minus the nature and more cars… actually, on second thought, it’s not the same at all. A dinner sequence around 57-minutes in provides some low level ambiance as well.

Dialogue reproduction is fine, the volume set a little low at its base, but with a little adjustment you’ll be fine. The various pop songs that serve as a soundtrack are clean and surprisingly forceful, and surely home theater fans have been waiting for the experience of Taylor Swift uncompressed coming through their expensive home theaters, right?

Audio ★★★★☆ 

Extras are brief, aside from the commentary from director Gary Winick and Amanda Seyfried. Deleted/extended scenes come with an introduction, and run near 11-minutes. A making of focuses on the location with the usual string of polite interviews, while the short A Courtyard in Verona details the idea for the film.

Audio ★★☆☆☆