Mrs Spielberg, aka Kate Capshaw, bought the rights to the novel The Love Letter before she'd even finished reading it. Obviously fed up with waiting for anything as juicy as her Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom role, she decided to find a star vehicle for herself. And in being a star vehicle for Capshaw, The Love Letter can't be faulted. She looks great, is virtually in every scene and flexes every last one of her acting muscles.
And that's the problem. What should have been a small movie, populated by quirky characters (think Whisky Galore or, more recently, Waking Ned), has become a one-woman show. Second-billed Blythe Danner has only three major scenes, and her character is hardly around enough to intrigue anyone beyond asking: why is an actress only 10 years older than the lead playing her mother?
Selleck's character is reduced to a mere cypher, while DeGeneres is hardly stretching herself as the funny bookshop manager. (Didn't she do a whole sitcom based around that?) Everett Scott, promising in That Thing You Do, is unconvincing as the lusty Johnny, while Gloria Stuart - yes, her out of Titanic - is merely given moments in which to act batty. Only lone Brit Geraldine McEwan enlivens the proceedings, with a much-welcome wicked streak.
Other factors suggest that the content has been slashed. For a start, the novel mentions that Helen has a daughter who's never referred to onscreen. And an elaborate party scene that was shot, along with other scenes involving the support characters, has been cut out.
What's left fails to involve the audience on any level. The way the love letter is passed between the characters does not convince and the remainder is hardly compelling drama.