La vita è bella in this romantic travelogue

By Lisa Schwarzbaum
May 13, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT
Myles Aronowitz

How ridiculously romantic is Letters to Juliet? How excessively dolce is this cinematic wish-fulfillment fantasy composed as a sonnet (with a pop-song backbeat) to good wine, beautiful people, Italian vineyards, the enduring power of Shakespeare?s Romeo and Juliet, and the enduring love between Vanessa Redgrave and Italian actor Franco Nero? Let me put it this way: It?s so shamelessly dreamy that not only does flaxen-haired Sophie (Amanda Seyfried, kissed by the camera), an aspiring writer with a mismatched fiancé, find true love on the sun-dappled back roads of Tuscany, but she also gets published in The New Yorker! On her first try!

Redgrave shimmers like one of Tuscany?s magnificent cypress trees as an Englishwoman searching for Lorenzo (Nero), the Italian man she loved a half century earlier; generic Australian cutie Christopher Egan plays the strapping grandson by her side. (It?s a fantastical world indeed when Gael García Bernal plays the wrong man for fair Sophie.) But soft! Director Gary Winick and cinematographer Marco Pontecorvo fit together the fate-tossed stuff of mass-appeal love stories and the seductive imagery of travelogue vacation movies so smoothly that the sequel to Letters to Juliet might well be Letters to Orbitz: Find me a flight to Verona!