A disc jockey, Anna Winter (Jamie Lee Curtis, Halloween), is surprised to find out that her recently deceased mother had an extramarital affair. Soon after she discovers her mother’s secret, the radio personality begins her own illicit affair with a married photographer (James Keach, The Long Riders).
Reaction & Thoughts:
“I’ll take guilt. I’ll take anything. I just want you to want me.”
Are you suffering from completism? You’re not alone! When I like a filmmaker, an actor, a music band, a novelist, etc., I need to get my hands on everything they have done. But as every completist knows, this compulsion can bring unexpected rewards.
Being a huge fan of actress James Lee Curtis, I had to watch Love Letters, which never gets mentioned when people talk about Curtis’s career, despite the fact that it was produced by famed produce Roger Corman. It’s all the more tragic because I’m now convinced that Love Letters contains Curtis’s best performance.
The film itself is great. It offers viewers a surprisingly insightful exploration of romance tropes. Love Letters is particularly good at depicting how life is spontaneous and unpredictable. We don’t know which way Curtis’s character — a young woman trying to make heads or tails of her relationship with a married man — is going to go because it is clear that the character doesn’t know which way she is going to go.
Curtis is so good at projecting her character’s inner confusion that you can’t help but connect with her on a basic human level. In the end, she discovers something about the meaning of love and something about herself, and above all, Curtis finds out that the mistress has more to lose than the married man.
Director Amy Holden Jones (The Slumber Party Massacre), who also wrote the incisive script, gives us a good sense of what it is like to be tangled in an illicit love affair, something Jones achieves without reducing the characters to caricatures. Jones doesn’t take sides, either. You can see that the married man, played extremely well by James Keach, is using Curtis. But it’s obvious that Curtis is using Keach too.
According to Jones, producer Corman forced her to add nudity to the film. If that’s true, then Corman unknowingly made the film better. The nudity makes the more realistic. This is an adult movie for adult people, so there is no need to be coy about the situations. Plus, Holden handles the nudity in a tastefully manner. Despite Roman’s reputation as a master of exploitation, Love Letters is wonderfully understated and thoughtful.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Love Letters is one of Roger Corman’s most unusual productions. It’s like a low-budget version of Fatal Attraction (1987), told from the perspective of Glen Close’s character and without the slasher-like ending. If you are a fan of Jamie Lee Curtis, you have to watch this movie! Curtis gives an award-caliber performance. 1983 was a watershed year for the actress. Love Letters and John Landis’s Trading Places proved that she was more than a “Scream Queen.” Highly recommended! Color, 88 minutes, Rated R.