Love Letter (1999)

A review by Nalini Haynes

A small American coastal town has quirky characters played by big name actors. A bookshop owner, Helen MacFarquhar (Kate Capshaw) finds a love letter. It’s not addressed to anyone specifically nor is it signed but, sure, she decides it’s for her. She sets about trying to discover who it’s from. Cue comedy.

Her employee, Janet Hall (Ellen DeGeneres), is fractious, late and constantly talking about sex. And not the lesbian kind. Janet finds the love letter and assumes it’s for her from George (Tom Selleck). Helen says it’s hers. They argue. Ellen quits. Cue more comedy.

And so it goes.

Chocolat

The promo blurb led me to believe The Love Letter was a low-calorie Chocolat. This is almost true but the plot dwells too much on one woman whose interactions aren’t that fabulous and the letter doesn’t travel nearly as much as the blurb led me to believe.

Representation

Ellen plays a straight sex-hungry woman, which is disappointing. The town is mostly white. No one is disabled or particularly different. However, creators have billed it as a “quirky” movie with a white nondisabled areligious cast. Redemption arrives in the form of an adorable queer romance as a minor sub-plot. This romance does NOT include Helen/Ellen although she officially came out in 1997. I guess that was part of the humor?

The verdict

The Love Letter is a watchable rom-com that has more potential than it delivers. Rotten Tomatoes gave it 33%, which seems a little harsh. However, it is not Dreamworks’ finest movie.

Movie details

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Director: Peter Chan
Production company: Dreamworks Pictures
Released: 1999
Running time: 88 minutes

Love letter: 3 letter boxes stand in a row, the center one is open with a letter inside