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A floating love letter awakens a quaint, quiet New England seacoast town. It’s anonymous and it falls into the knowledge of various people and propels them into romantic thoughts. Helen MacFarquhar (Kate Capshaw) is a celibate single mother and small bookshop owner. The letter is first discovered on her sofa one day as she was checking her mail, and naturally she assumes that it was sent to her. She has been a hard-working businesswoman but had no current romance in her life. The love letter changes the scenario. Could the writer of the letter be the young college student, Johnny (Tom Everett Scott), who is working for Helen during his holidays? Or could it be her old flame, the big-hearted town fireman George (Tom Selleck), who has had a long-time crush on her?
In this romantic MERRY-GO-ROUND, Janet (Ellen DeGeneres), an accountant and Helen’s best friend, finds out about the letter and the circumstances and believes it could have been meant for her, and by George, whom she believes has strong feelings for her. It’s an uneasy tension. The film sets up many situations that could have been sexier and funny, yet it falls short on delivering a true romantic comedy. An affair with somebody half her age might have put a bit of bubble and spark into Helen, but it doesn’t really eventuate.
This film could have been much more entertaining. The score even tries to inject some spunk through old romantic ballads. Therefore, it falls back to a relatively flat script. The cast is worthy of more substance. Kate Capshasw, who also produced the film (she is married to Steven Spielberg, the studio boss for Dreamworks), plays her role with sincerity and holds the screen well, despite the lack of bite in the script. Ellen DeGeneres delivers a couple of good one-liners, but is generally lacklustre. Tom Selleck’s approach is worthy. He has an impressive screen presence and allows his character to be geeky without making him pathetic. This is the first American film for acclaimed Hong Kong director Peter Ho-Sun Chan, and he seemed constrained by the material with which he was presented. I’m sure he will deliver better film. “The Love Letter” could have offered so much more.