The Love Letter

Director:Peter Ho-sun Chan
Writer:Maria Maggenti
DreamWorks Pictures; 88 minutes; R
Cast:Kate Capshaw, Blythe Danner, Tom Everett Scott, Tom Selleck, Ellen DeGeneres

On the one hand, The Love Letter's premise is delightful, Shakespearean even: a wayward letter of love sparks unconventional romance in a picturesque New England town. On the other hand, it plays out with all the dramatic tension and memorable dialogue of a Martha Stewart television special.

Fortysomething divorcée and bookstore owner Helen MacFarquhar (Kate Capshaw) chances on an unaddressed, unsigned lover letter that rocks her quaint world. Initially attributing authorship to Johnny the book clerk (Tom Everett Scott), a hunky college student half her age, the pair leap into an affair. Meanwhile, the letter floats around like a frisky cupid, accidentally read and re-read by various cast members, awakening the town into a frantic and heavy springtime heat.

The setup is great, but The Love Letter doesn't pull it off. Ellen DeGeneres' witty character threatens to provide an antidote to the sun-bleached mush-hence she's achingly absent for most of the film.

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