Since the release of his 2007 masterpiece There Will Be Blood, we have waited with bated breath for the latest rumors about Paul Thomas Anderson's next upcoming project, tentatively titled The Master, the story of "a charismatic intellectual who hatches a faith-based organization that begins to catch on in America in 1952 called The Cause." First we heard that Philip Seymour Hoffman would be playing the titular lead as "The Master" of the Scientology-like cult, with Jeremy Renner as his protegé, Freddie Sutton. The role of his wife, Mary-Sue, has been reportedly offered to Reese Witherspoon. Now, as Anderson prepares to begin shooting this summer, it has been revealed that he is currently looking at three up-and-coming actresses to play Hoffman and Witherspoon's daughter, Elizabeth: Amanda Seyfried, Emma Stone and Deborah Ann Woll are all potentially in the running for the part.
This could be a break-out role for whichever actress lands the gig; Anderson is a huge name in Hollywood right now, and his last several films (There Will Be Blood, Punch Drunk Love, Magnolia, Boogie Nights) have all been highly critically acclaimed. Both Seyfried and Stone have upcoming commitments, which could put them out of the running: Seyfried in The Girl with the Red Riding Hood and Stone in The Help. Woll also has various upcoming films she's purported to be involved in, as well as a continuing commitment to HBO's True Blood (she plays the newly-turned teenage vampire Jessica).
Still, this is a Paul Thomas Anderson movie, and any one of these actresses should probably be willing to change their schedules to accommodate Anderson's latest production. The Master could seriously bolster any one of their resumés just as There Will Be Blood legitimized Paul Dano's career. No matter who he picks, expect Anderson's next opus of Americana to turn heads sometime next year.
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Each year thousands of lovelorn women flock to Verona Italy the hometown of Shakespeare’s Juliet to solicit romantic advice from the tragic heroine. They deposit their pleading letters on a wall near the balcony where Romeo supposedly made his famous late-night visit and if they’re lucky receive a reply from one of Juliet’s crew of officially appointed ghostwriters known as the Secretaries of Juliet.
In Gary Winnick's Letters to Juliet young Sophie (the irresistible Amanda Seyfried) while working on a sort of temp assignment with the Secretaries winds up leading an elderly British widow (Vanessa Redgrave) on a quest to reunite her with the Italian boyfriend she abruptly — and regretfully — jilted nearly 50 years prior. It’s a contrived and far-fetched scenario to be sure but no more so than your average Hollywood rom-com and this one at least carries the pleasant side benefit of allowing the filmmakers to set most of the action in picturesque Verona where Seyfried and Redgrave traverse the countryside on their quixotic endeavor.
The charming mother-daughter dynamic that forms between Seyfried’s doe-eyed do-gooder and Redgrave’s wistful grandma carries Letters to Juliet and make its preposterous and unapologetically schmaltzy plot palpable. But their efforts are largely sabotaged by the mediocre men of Juliet Gael Garcia Bernal (Babel The Motorcycle Diaries) and Christopher Egan (Eragon TV's Kings).
The usually terrific Garcia Bernal is really more of a prop than a character in this film. As Seyfried’s future ex-fiance an ADD-addled restaurateur too preoccupied with procuring ingredients for his new menu to tend to his relationship he replays the same scene over and over as if in some sort of Twilight Zone sketch. His intended replacement played by Egan is an insufferable twit we’re meant to believe is some sort of hot-shot human rights lawyer back in his native England — a detail I wouldn’t believe if he held up his law school degree to the camera for us to see.
Equally incredulous is the romantic subplot that develops between him and Seyfried and when the story shifts to them the film rapidly loses steam. Male characters will always play second fiddle in a chick flick — even one written and directed by men — but in Letters to Juliet they’re almost an afterthought seemingly tossed in late in the game to bolster the film’s appeal to young female moviegoers. In the end even someone as talented as Seyfried can’t effectively sell us on her character's eventual pair-up with Egan’s whiny doofus no matter how loudly the Taylor Swift soundtrack presses her case.