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Letters to Juliet

Letters to Juliet

Tonight, because my youngest is off for three days, Thomas and I went to see a movie. There aren't a lot of movies that I wanted to see--I'm incredibly curious about Inception, but that doesn't start until Friday.

So we went to see a comfort movie instead.

The general idea behind this movie is that women from around the world come to Verona to write letters to Juliet (yes, the fictional Shakespearean one). But these letters are gathered by women who call themselves the Secretaries of Juliet, and they're answered. Our Sophie is a New Yorker who, for a variety of reasons, is on a "pre-honeymoon" but nonetheless is at loose ends. She ends up with these Secretaries, and she finds a letter that was written fifty years ago. She answers it. The woman who wrote the letter then appears, grandson in tow, travelling from London in search of the young man she loved when she was fifteen and in art school in Tuscany.

First, let me admit that this was not full of cinematic awesome. It took no chances, it was absent all grit, it was warm, gentle, and entirely harmless. I thought the actor that played Victor was very good, as was Vanessa Redgrave, but no one else stood out one way or the other; I thought that the movie could have lost twenty minutes with careful editing, and it wouldn't have lost much.

And having said all that, I really, really liked it--because it was exactly what was wanted from a comfort movie. All of the characters were basically decent, all of the motivations for their behaviour were entirely clear, and the ending was capital H happy.

This started me thinking about movies in general, or rather, what I want from a movie. I can read anything. It doesn't matter how intense it is; it doesn't matter how non-linear its narrative structure or how bizarre its characters. I can confront any unpleasantness, I can be moved and almost harrowed.

But I can't do this for movies. What I want from a movie falls into a much narrower range. I loved Lives of Others and I've Loved You For So Long, because at base I found them moving and ultimately beautiful and hopeful, regardless of their subject matter. But I also like movies like Letters to Juliet because absent that startling sense of illumination, they offer me a type of accessible, easy comfort.

I realize this makes me very movie low-brow, but I can live with that.


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 15th, 2010 10:01 am (UTC)
If you are low brow, so am I. I love films like Green Card and Hindi tearjerker Aaina, soft, sweet films. And all out action fests from Hong Kong (preferably with 80s stars like Yuen Biao and Lam Ching-Ying and Donnie Yen Chi-Dan --- and of course Jackie Chan). I flinch from gritty, painful films like Missing (I still haven't screwed up my courage for Schindler's List). But I will harrow myself in words quite happily.
Jul. 15th, 2010 09:39 pm (UTC)
It's funny because my first reaction when my sister insisted I watch The Lives of Others was: I don't want to watch a film about the East German secret police. It's only going to be a train wreck.

And you know... it was. But it wasn't. It was stunning -- I thought it must have been a stage play at one point, it had that level of focused character intimacy to me.

I also like straight action films, but there's a certain type of violence that I really don't enjoy, even if in theory the film is otherwise safe.
Jul. 15th, 2010 09:45 pm (UTC)
I was riveted by Downfall. It's just that I have to gear myself up for really serious cinema, I guess: the default is to look for something fluffy...
I can take violence up to a point, but I don't care for too much gruesomeness -- my horror threshold is very low, and, in particular, I cannot be doing with zombies.
Jul. 16th, 2010 03:29 am (UTC)
I liked Green Card, too, but I also loved Schindler's List. I guess I have a very wide-ranging taste in movies.
Jul. 16th, 2010 03:38 am (UTC)
Schindler's List was lovely. Yes it was dark--but it had to be, given everything. I liked the character, and I liked what he was struggling, at some risk, to do in the darkness.

I guess it's that, in some ways. I don't care how dark things are (and some people considered Hidden City to be very, very dark -- what I want to see is how people struggle to cope with, and rise out of, that darkness. If that makes sense.
Jul. 16th, 2010 05:00 pm (UTC)
Okay, for just one instant there I thought, "They made a movie of Hidden City?"

But, yes, it's the struggle that's interesting because far too many people don't struggle at all.
Jul. 15th, 2010 10:12 am (UTC)
My favourite comfort films are old US musicals or screwball comedies. ^^
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 15th, 2010 12:14 pm (UTC)
Well, after all, Vanessa Redgrave.
Jul. 15th, 2010 09:42 pm (UTC)
My husband thought Vanessa Redgrave was wonderful in that role as well. I wasn't impressed with the others -- except for one scene, which is my favourite in the movie (next to Victor tasting the cheese), in which Claire brushes Sophie's hair.

And yes -- the movie was totally predictable, but I was okay with that. It wasn't brilliant; there are romantic comedies which are much better *written* and acted overall, but... I thought the whole was a lot better than the sum of the parts in this case.
Jul. 15th, 2010 12:14 pm (UTC)
This sounds exactly like the kind that I need these days. Too many scriptwriters think that they have to do unpleasant and unfair things to their characters to make the story "dramatic".
Jul. 15th, 2010 12:52 pm (UTC)
I grok what you're saying about movies.

In my experience, I get enough exposure to depressing events in my daily life without me actively seeking it in my reading and movie watching. Does that turn me into a Polyanna watcher? Hell no. I want conflict, and I want to see some struggle, but I also don't need to read/watch a tragedy. Really dark films don't work for me, with probably the exceptions of The Wall and Full Metal Jacket. (Not sure why, either.)
Jul. 15th, 2010 02:15 pm (UTC)
Move over, sistah.
Jul. 15th, 2010 04:30 pm (UTC)
I'd be interested to know what's on your all-time favorite movies list. And of those, I'd be curious if you re-watch them often or at all.

Jul. 15th, 2010 10:02 pm (UTC)
All time favourites?

Things I've liked enough to make people rewatch with me: The Lives of Others. I've Loved You For So Long -- I really adored that one.

The first Lord of the Rings movie, Fellowship of the Ring.

And, of course, Sense and Sensibility (the Emma Thompson one), and Persuasion (the Ciaran Hinds one).
Jul. 15th, 2010 07:03 pm (UTC)
I'll watch any sort of film, but sometimes I'm in the mood for comfort films.
Jul. 15th, 2010 10:07 pm (UTC)
I'm extremely low-brow when it comes to movies, and I embrace it. :) I also look for very specific things from movies, and if they are there, I tend to be happy with the movie. I might kvetch about multiple little things, but I'm pretty easily entertained.

And I have a LOT more "absolutely not" reactions to movies than I do to books. I can read a much wider range of types than I can watch. I think it has much to do with the difference involved in associated visual stimuli and how it affects my brain.
Jul. 16th, 2010 03:28 am (UTC)
I don't go to movies much these days, but by an odd coincidence I did go to see Letters to Juliet a while ago. I agree with your assessment of it perfectly--there are better and wittier romantic comedies, but this one was very warm and fuzzy without descending into schmaltz. But one of the things I liked best about it was the fact that Guinevere & Lancelot (from the movie version of "Camelot") ended up married and living happily ever after. For me, it was the inside joke of the movie.
Jul. 16th, 2010 04:31 am (UTC)
But one of the things I liked best about it was the fact that Guinevere & Lancelot (from the movie version of "Camelot") ended up married and living happily ever after. For me, it was the inside joke of the movie.

I am embarrassed to say that I didn't even notice this! And I will now have to make my mother watch this movie (I was probably going to do that anyway).
Aug. 2nd, 2010 03:39 am (UTC)
I recommend "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day" for comfort movie watching.

( 19 comments — Leave a comment )