Saturday, May 15, 2010

There is place for growth in leisured paradise: Review of "Letters to Juliet"

It is unbecoming of a lady to marry her steward, and so the pseudo-Italian fiancee, who is expert and fussy-obsessed with all the variant particulars concerning his “estate” -- his newly opened restaurant -- is to be discarded for a gentleman who’s only obligation is to show himself good-looking, vital, and inherently decent and well-mannered -- a proper lord. This is one of the things you understand while watching “Letters to Juliet,” yet another film which must be objected to lest we become unable to see reality.
Our lady, Sophie, has gone to Brown, what has apparently become THE finishing school for ladies in our times, being not so ardent-seeming that it might coarsen you with too professional a sense of purpose, yet still as established and esteemed as any of the more prominent ivyies. If you’ve gone to Brown, you may be the sort who is just not pushy enough to have already scored a career as a major writer at the New Yorker by the time she’s twenty-two, not brutally driven enough to have portfolioed herself into the most obvious upmost echelons, like Harvard or Princeton, but who’s relaxed possession of larger qualities, whose preference for discreteness, anonymity, quiet grace, makes you EXACTLY what lords of commercial society need as near to them as possible to suggest their own timelessness and quality -- certain by divine right, to survive and continue to prosper, if the time's primary henceforth call is for people to define themselves as either sacrifice or to-be-satisfied.
She’s gone where Lady Di might have gone to if she was an American, and her future husband has gone to Oxford -- where all boyish princes who would be Kings must go. If he’d gone to Cambridge, it would have again made him REALLY seem invested in doing something for the country by craft or trade -- which would have lowered and coarsened him -- when it is his loftiness -- his sheer existence -- which most keeps the regression-prone countryside from devolving into dispersions of the-really-quite-insane, gnarly, garish multitudes. Yes, of course, he’s supposed to be a lawyer devoted to helping the weak, which is supposed to sound like the lord turning away from expectation and risking being forgotten about but which by this time we all REALLY know means he’s perfectly orthodox -- perfectly “certain,” and safe, given our newly updated standards concerning how lords are to define themselves.
It isn’t a good thing when being as alive as a sunflower but not a wit more interesting, can’t make you -- an ostensibly ambitious human being -- the subject of some ridicule. And yet this might now just be where we are -- in that too many who can at some level see that these leisured, liberal humanists / gentry, who ostensibly have the time, quietness, and tutored capacity to range greatly and uninterruptedly while in this world, are just beautiful script, lines curling up, down, and on through a plot already known and before them, content to take pleasure in the variances of sensation they can see ahead and know are coming, but still very much to be taken pleasure in, because vividness exists primarily in the rush of what is before you not in the nagging memory of what you once knew, because they are in-mind to give up the reigns to someone else themselves, and want no evidence anywhere extant that makes them feel small, feel guilty, for doing so.
Claire --the grandmother -- could be a problem. Which is why all her genuine gravitas is summoned but drawn to essential vacancy -- her love of her life, who she once loved and never --ostensibly rightly -- learned to lose interest in, is SO MUCH perfect acquisition, perfect object, well-groomed and already, beautifully-told story, that she serves as unmistakable proof in the pudding, as General Colin Powell to George Bush, that what is not actually here in the film, IS actually there, if only you had the capacity to find it.
Photo still: "Letters to Juliet."

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