The Love Letter - B-
Viewed May 23, 1999 at State

Loblolly-by-the-Sea. The name of the town where The Love Letter is set may be my favorite thing about the movie; it brings up images of a quaint Englishness, a laid-back sense of whimsy, and lazy summer days. It's the cozy hamlet where Ray Davies wants to preserve the village green. However, it's actually a New England fishing town, and the odd juxtaposition of both English and American pastoral fantasies about small-town life is what gives The Love Letter a distinctive flavor.

A comedy about romance[1], The Love Letter is not a particularly good film. The film is too overstuffed with subplots, several of which are given short shrift. The revelation of the eponymous note's origin, for example, simply doesn't have the emotional pull it should have, since we simply haven't gotten to know the couple involved all that well. But the film's major problem is that it doesn't really have a plot; it ambles its way through the character's lives, and then ends. But the journey to nowhere in particular is interesting thanks to a fine ensemble. There isn't a bad performance to be found here : Tom Selleck has never been better, Ellen DeGeneres may have found her calling as second-banana, and Kate Capshaw gives a complex performance as the film's heroine. I haven't read the novel it's based on, but the script has a wit that seems literary to my ears. To, um, wit:
Selleck's character has just mentioned his fondness for opera.
DeGeneres: I like opera, too.
Capshaw: No, you don't!
DeGeneres: Sure I do. I listen to it all the time when I vaccuum.

[1]It is not however (despite what several critics might say) a romantic comedy. That brings up several genre expectations that The Love Letter blithely ignores.