Movie Review: Letters to Juliet

Ah, summer movie season. It’s full of blockbusters, frat-boy comedies, and rom-coms. Granted, I’m generalizing, but summer movies tend to get old quickly. I’ve browsed IMDB’s Summer Movie Guide and there’s not much to look forward to, unless there’s some surprise, well-reviewed hit. It hasn’t even been a week since Memorial Day- I’m not sure I’ll make it to August.

This is why my friend Daniela and I were in a bit of a dilemma yesterday, when we finally made a trip to the theater. We debated between Prince of Persia and Sex & the City. Both got terrible reviews, so we ended up buying tickets for Letters to Juliet. (Side note: I was absolutely shocked when my ticket only cost six bucks. How awesome.)

Letters to Juliet stars Amanda Seyfried as Sophie. She travels to Verona with her fiancé Victor (Gael García Bernal) on a “pre-honeymoon”. Sounds like a fairy-tale already, right? But Victor, who is opening a restaurant, begins to neglect Sophie as he meets with suppliers. Sophie is left to explore Verona when she meets the “secretaries of Juliet”. These women spend their days answering letters women left at Juliet’s courtyard, all asking for advice when it comes to love. Sophie joins them and soon finds a long-lost letter dating back fifty years. Since she can’t bear to leave the letter unanswered, Sophie writes back.

A few days later, the woman who wrote the original letter, Claire (Vanessa Redgrave), arrives in Verona inspired to search for the lover she left decades ago. After a chance encounter, Sophie joins Claire and her handsome yet pompous nephew Charlie (Christopher Egan) on their sojourn through the Italian countryside. And really, I can stop describing the plot now because the trailer gives away everything.

Despite its predictability, I found Letters to Juliet to be such a pleasant film. Even though all the leads are pretty much stock characters, the actors all give solid performances. Seyfried has come a long way from her Mean Girls days- she’s transforming into one of Hollywood’s brightest young actresses. Redgrave is just radiant- absolutely stunning. She approaches her role with such passion, her Claire becomes the star of the show. The cinematography is gorgeous: Italy is splashed with sunlight, and it helps the movie’s vibe enormously.

Although Letters to Juliet was marketed as a romantic-comedy, it’s refreshing in many ways. It’s light on the comedy (nearly no slapstick, thank goodness), with just the right amount of romance. I did tear up occasionally but it was no tearjerker like The Notebook. It was great to see a romance set outside of New York City (for the most part) because compared to the usual, glossy chick flicks, Letters to Juliet feels intimate and sincere. The movie doesn’t revolve around the relationship between Sophie and Charlie, leaving room to for audiences to connect with Claire’s story. And her story is a great one, even if it is a modern fairy-tale.

This may seem like a non-sequitur, but the movie made me ridiculously hungry. Just the sight of gelato- Italy itself is mouth-watering. And you know those never-ending bread sticks at Olive Garden? They may not be real Italian or all that filling, but are still incredibly delicious, warm, and real. Well, that’s Letters to Juliet. Bon appetit.

Sarah

Nobody’s Perfect

I was originally planning on writing about the start of the NBA Finals and the rekindling one of the greatest rivalries in sports: the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics. Two of the most storied franchises in all of basketball, the previous two NBA champs, are meeting yet again, in a rematch of the 2008 Finals. Oh, it’s on, and it starts tonight.

My plans changed because something happened last night: Armando Galarraga, pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, lost out on a perfect game on the 27th out.

Let’s back track here. For those of you who don’t know much about baseball, a perfect game is thrown when the pitcher retires every single batter he faces, not allowing any opposing batters to reach base. Like they say, “27 up, 27 down”. There have only been twenty perfect games in the Major Leagues, dating back to 1880. Twenty- and this includes the two perfect games pitched this past May. Over the years though there have been many games this close to being perfect, absolute heartbreakers.

But not like this one.

The video explains what happened better than I ever could. (EDIT: MLB removed the original video from YouTube because of copyright issues, but the AP link is a pretty good explanation.) That call by umpire Jim Joyce, which was so painfully, glaringly wrong (especially in the replay), is already notorious. It has sparked two major debates in the baseball world: should instant replay be used? Can MLB reverse the call?

It wasn’t until 2008 that baseball began using instant replay to review calls, and it is only sanctioned in three specific instances. Last night’s play at first base is not one of those examples. I remember being surprised when instant replay was finally allowed. Baseball, more than the other professional sports, relies heavily on human judgement. Human interpretation, however, can lead to human error. Not to mention, the league has the utmost regard for its history. For the players and coaches, baseball history is sacred.

Which brings me to debate #2: overturning the call. Commissioner Bud Selig announced that while he will look into the use of instant replay, he will not reverse Joyce’s call. I’m not surprised. While I’m certainly not a fan of Selig, his decision may be better for the sport in the long run. Overturning this one call, even less than 24 hours after game time but without precedent, could’ve opened Pandora’s Box in regards to all the blown calls over the years. Still, it’s a shame that Galarraga’s gem won’t go into the record books as Perfect Game #21, even with an asterisk. The kid doesn’t even have the satisfaction of a no-hitter.

It must be noted that Galarraga, Joyce, and the Tigers team have all been dealing with this situation with such class. Joyce apologized to Galarraga after seeing the replay. Galarraga humbly accepted, saying that he knows “nobody’s perfect”. Throughout the league, Joyce is being heralded as a great umpire- he just made a mistake. It’s so true. When Joyce made the call, he was convinced he made the right call. A lesser umpire would’ve gone against his conviction and called the final out. When Roy Halladay threw his perfect game last week, the strike zone got bigger and bigger as the night went on. The close calls went in Halladay’s favor. That’s just the way it is.

It’s unfortunate that this blown call came at such a pivotal moment- a perfect game. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be such a big story. The fact of the matter is no one is perfect, but some of the mistakes we make can’t be taken back. What’s done is done, and that’s how it will stay for history.

Did you watch the game? Did Selig make the right decision?

The Break-Up

In case you missed it, news broke yesterday that former vice president Al Gore and his wife Tipper are separating. Sure, break-ups for Hollywood and Washington couples alike usually aren’t unexpected. But this particular story was sort of shocking- the Gores have been married for forty years.

40 years.

Al and Tipper Gore at the 2007 Oscars

Politics aside, it’s sad to see such a long relationship come to a close. And these two, Al and Tipper, have been through a lot together. They met at his senior prom, all the way back in 1965. When Al attended Harvard, Tipper followed him to Boston and soon enrolled at Boston University. He eventually proposed as the pair walked by the Charles River, and in 1970 they married in Washington. Less than a year later, Al was sent to Vietnam. After he returned, they worked at The Tennessean in Nashville and began raising their family.

The Gores’ Wedding Picture

At 28, Al Gore was elected to Congress and the family moved back to Washington. Gore was generally successful in politics: although he ran two unsuccessful presidential campaigns, he served as VP for eight years under Bill Clinton. In 1989, the Gores’ young son was almost killed in a car accident, and ultimately the family grew closer. (So close in fact, that Al and Tipper shared an infamous kiss at the 2000 Democratic National Convention.) It was like a Nicholas Sparks novel.

The Gores (center) with the Clintons

They seemed like a real, loving couple, especially when compared to the tumultuous relationship between the Clintons. But now the Gores are the ones separating. After  40 years.

The Gores announced their separation in an e-mail to friends and family, calling it a “mutually supportive decision that we have made together.” According to the statement they “grew apart.” There have been no reports of extramarital affairs, which is refreshing considering the reputation of many politicians. Still, it’s disheartening that a long-term relationship has come to end after overcoming so much.

Clearly, I’ve thought a lot about this development. I’m the first to admit that I’m a cynic when it comes to relationships, but this story just reminds me that romance and marriage aren’t what they used to be. I think it’s crazy to separate after forty years- how do you recover from that? Is there any hope at all for the rest of us? At the same time, I admire the Gores for being courageous enough to admit it was time for them to move on.

What do you think? How do you think the former couple is handling the situation? Is this even a relevant news story? What about the media’s apparent fascination with public couples splitting?

Sources: AP, CNN, Wikipedia, IMDB