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ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY BOB WADE
?The Love Letter.? Rated: PG-13. I give it a 31/2 on a scale of 5.







Read several reviews of the Kate Capshaw movie ?The Love Letter,? and they are likely to run the entire range from those who love it to those who despise it.



The film stars Capshaw as Helen McFarquar, a 40-something bookstore owner in Loblolly by the Sea, a quaint Massachusetts village where everybody has his or her nose in everybody else?s business.



Helen is divorced and living a loveless life until she finds a love letter stuck between two sofa cushions. She assumes it is for her, even though it is not addressed.



The letter is a bit schmaltzy, including such lines as, ?Did I graze my knee; did I graze my heart?? But, it does the trick for Helen, who begins to fantasize about who may have given her the note.



She eventually settles on Johnny (Tom Everett Scott of ?That Thing You Do? fame). He is 20 years her junior and a college student. He works in her bookstore, and he already has the hots for his boss, so he doesn?t need a whole lot of encouragement.



When he finds the note in her house, he presumes it has been left by her for him. Eventually the two begin a spring-autumn affair that promises to last the summer.



But wait, there?s more. Tom Selleck plays George, the town fireman who has carried a flame for Helen since high school. He is in the final stages of his divorce, so he will soon be free to pursue his childhood sweetheart. All he has to do is get her to take him seriously.



In the meantime, Helen?s friend and employee Janet (Ellen DeGeneres, back in the bookstore setting that made her famous), finds the note on the store counter and assumes it is meant for her and left by George.



Still with me?



The movie continues to twist and turn as the quaint townspeople try to unravel the mystery. We are given glimpses into the lives of each of them as the 90-minute tale unwinds.



And therein lies the problem with this film. We never really know enough about any of them to feel for them or with them.



Helen?s mother and grandmother come to visit as the story reaches its peak. It doesn?t help the believability factor when Blythe Danner is cast as Helen?s mother. Danner is only 10 years older than Capshaw in real life.



Oh well.



The film contains a fair amount of skin for a PG-13 rating, and it includes several uses of strong language, including the ?F word.?



There are a number of strong sexual references, and the plot involves some alternative lifestyle choices (I don?t want to give away the ending).



The movie marks the American directing debut of Korean Peter Ho-sun Chan.



If you are capable of setting aside some distractions, and you are looking for a fairly lighthearted tale to pass an evening, ?The Love Letter? is not an altogether bad choice.



When my son heard the title, he wondered whether we had seen the movie before…more than one time. My wife thought maybe she had read the book. She wasn?t sure. (To set the record straight, the film was based on a novel by Cathleen Schine.)



That kind of ambiguity hurts the movie. For a film that boasts a boatload of big stars, it?s just not all that memorable.

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