This twee romantic comedy has been something of a labour of
love for Kate Capshaw, who is both star and producer. Inevitably, it
is she who must also shoulder much of the blame for the film's
failings. This surprisingly bland and ultimately uninvolving film is
set in the old fashioned and laid back, picturesque seaside village of
Loblolly By The Sea, and centres around a number of residents whose
lives are changed by an anonymous love letter.
Helen (Capshaw) runs the town's small bookstore, which
amazingly enough, survives even though it never seems to do any
business. One day she discovers the titular epistle nestled in the
store's couch, and immediately assumes it was addressed to her. She
hopes that it was written by George (Tom Selleck), the town's fireman,
who was also her childhood sweetheart before they went their own way
with plenty of unresolved differences still simmering between them.
Now that he is in the throes of a divorce, she hopes for a long
overdue reconciliation. But she is a little surprised when she
suspects that it was possibly written by Johnny (Tom Everett Scott,
from That Thing You Do!, etc), the handsome college student working in
the bookstore for the summer vacation, who has developed a crush on
A series of misunderstandings and liaisons follows, as several
other townsfolk are similarly entranced by the lyrical letter and its
mysterious author. The script from Maria Maggenti (The Incredibly
True Adventure Of Two Girls In Love) is nicely done, but doesn't
really provide a lot of insight into this sleepy little town, with its
hidden secrets, or its eccentric inhabitants with their secret
passions. Nor does it satisfactorily answer a number of questions
that continue to nag long after the final credits.
The ensemble cast try hard to breathe some life into the
underdeveloped script, but to little avail. We know that Blythe
Danner is Gwyneth Paltrow's mother, but it takes some leap of the
imagination to accept her as Kate Capshaw's mother here. Ellen
DeGeneres gets the bulk of the one liners as Janet, the co-manager of
the book store, a role that is not that far removed from the one she
played in her television sitcom.
This disappointing but mercifully brief film marks an
inauspicious Hollywood debut for acclaimed Hong Kong director Peter
Ho-sun Chan (Comrades: Almost A Love Story, etc), who handles the
material in an almost leisurely fashion. Unfortunately, the film
lacks any real sense of passion, inspiration or heartfelt emotions.
This is one letter that should never have been opened!
Copyright © 1999 Greg King