Blonde, pillow-topped, and spineless, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) has a secure fact-checking job and is engaged to Victor (Gael García Bernal), a hunky restaurateur of indeterminate exotic origin who dangles hot, fresh fettuccine into her mouth in a totally nonthreatening, not-at-all-9½ Weeks-ish way. But Sophie's not satisfied: She really wants to write, an ambition that sets the eyes of both boyfriend and boss aglaze. When Victor seems more interested in spending their Italian vacation hunting truffles than digging her, Sophie drifts off and ends up in Verona at the mythic home of Shakespeare's Juliet, where a cadre of volunteer secretaries answer letters left behind by lovelorns. Soon, Sophie's tagging along as English widow Claire (Vanessa Redgrave) visits a roundelay of Italian geezers to find the farmhand she loved and left back in the '50s. Enter Claire's no-fun lawyer grandson, Charlie (Christopher Egan), whose interest in Sophie's writing makes up for his post-schoolboy prissiness. Juliet's core messages—date boys who are cool with you having a career, and don't settle; NYC wine snobs are selfish, but guys who grow grapes and/or do pro bono legal work will love you forever—are inoffensive, but they're hardly the stuff of swooning fantasia. And fantasy Juliet clearly intends to be—too many plane tickets are booked last-minute without mention of cost. Gary Winick's flat direction does the material no favors: If Egan and Seyfried have any chemistry, it's framed out of their awkwardly staged climactic kisses.
Seyfried has her sex appeal dialed down to PG.
Opens at Guild 45 and other theaters, Fri., May 14. Rated PG. 104 minutes.