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Love Letter

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Love Letter

Starring: Kate Capshaw, Ellen DeGeneres
Director: Peter Chan
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 88 Minutes
Release Date: May 1999
Genres: Comedy, Romance

*Also starring: Tom Selleck, Tom Everett Scott, Gloria Stuart

Review by Greg King
1½ stars out of 4

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 her.

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

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