×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Love Letters

Transferring A.R. Gurney's rueful "Love Letters" to the small screen is no easy task. The play's epistolary structure and two-character cast suggest a certain stiffness unsuited to TV's airier aesthetic. Yet scribe Gurney has ingeniously altered this tender, sentimental drama to fit the new medium for director Stanley Donen's cleverly rendered telepic.

With:
Andrew Ladd - Steven Weber Melissa Gardner - Laura Linney

Transferring A.R. Gurney’s rueful “Love Letters” to the small screen is no easy task. The play’s epistolary structure and two-character cast suggest a certain stiffness unsuited to TV’s airier aesthetic. Yet scribe Gurney has ingeniously altered this tender, sentimental drama to fit the new medium for director Stanley Donen’s cleverly rendered telepic.

Essentially an exchange between two preppies, “Love Letters” traces the lives of Andrew Ladd (Steven Weber) and Melissa Gardner (Laura Linney) through a series of notes and letters spanning nearly a lifetime. In the play, the actors portray the characters at various life stages; in the teleplay, Gurney has allowed for tykes and teens to assume the roles of young Andy and Melissa, with Weber and Linney occasionally voicing the dialogue.

Gurney has tweaked his play in other ways as well, almost always without doing damage to the carefully calibrated work. Andy and Melissa meet more frequently than they do on the stage, where an even greater number of missed opportunities conspire to keep these would-be lovers at bay. And as network censors don’t cotton to four-letter words, Gurney altered a few phrases to mollify them.The framing device that opens the program, however, will upset devotees of the stage version. In the play, Melissa’s unexpected death comes as a great blow, at the drama’s conclusion. Here, it opens the action, with Andy (now Senator Ladd) returning from her funeral and rereading their voluminous correspondence as an act of remembrance. It’s a bad idea, undercutting heartfelt emotion in favor of a maudlin gesture. It also entirely removes the element of surprise from the teleplay.

That said, Weber and, especially, Linney turn in touching, convincing, charming performances. If there’s not exactly chemistry between these two, the suggestion of bona fide affection and love more than makes up for the absence of heat. And that’s exactly Gurney’s point.

Accepting Weber (formerly of “Wings”) as a Wasp Senator is sometimes a little hard, but Linney has troubled artist Melissa down pat. And helmer Donen, for one, seems gaga over the actress, who starred in the “Tales of the City” minis and is clearly born to the tube. The director shoots Linney like she’s Audrey Hepburn, and, indeed, she glows.

Donen has also managed a fine job opening up the action, expanding Gurney’s play with a multitude of outdoor shots, unusual angles and sharp edits.

Love Letters

ABC; April 12, 9 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Toronto by Marstar/Mandy Films. Executive producers, Martin Starger, Leonard Goldberg; director, Stanley Donen; writer, A.R. Gurney, adapted from his play.

Crew: Production design, Dan Yarhi; camera, Michael Fash; editor, Robert Reitano, Philip Weisman; sound, Owen Langevin; music, Lee Holdridge. 2 HOURS.

Cast: Andrew Ladd - Steven Weber Melissa Gardner - Laura Linney

More TV

  • rachel brosnahan Variety Cover Story

    Rachel Brosnahan Signs First-Look Deal With Amazon Studios

    Rachel Brosnahan is deepening her relationship with Amazon. The “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” star has signed a first-look deal with Amazon Studios, under which she and her Scrap Paper Pictures production company will develop TV series exclusively for Amazon’s streaming platform. Brosnahan has won several awards for her performance as Midge Maisel, including an Emmy Award [...]

  • Kevin Costner stars as John Dutton

    'Yellowstone' Season 2 Premiere Ratings More Than Double in Delayed Viewing

    The Season 2 premiere of “Yellowstone” more than doubled its Live+Same Day numbers in Live+3. According to Nielsen data, the premiere last Wednesday rose to a 0.98 rating in adults 18-49 and just over 5 million total viewers after three days of playback. That is up 115% in the demo and 109% in viewers from [...]

  • Malaka

    Conecta Fiction 2019: 10 Takeaways

    MADRID  —  The 3rd Conecta Fiction, Europe’s biggest Latin American TV co-production forum, wrapped last week in Pamplona after four days of dealing, debate and gastronomic delectation. Following 10 Takeaways from an intense and buoyant event, driven by the unfaltering growth of high-end production in Spain and most of Latin America: 1.PLATFORM PIVOT  The writing [...]

  • THE L WORD GENERATION Q Cast

    'L Word' Follow Up at Showtime Adds Four Series Regulars

    The upcoming “L Word” sequel series at Showtime is rounding out its main cast. Arienne Mandi, Leo Sheng, Jacqueline Toboni, and Rosanny Zayas have all been cast in series regular roles. They join returning original series stars and executive producers Jennifer Beals, Katherine Moennig, and Leisha Hailey. Mandi will play Dani Nùñez, described as a [...]

  • Comic-Con 2019 TV Schedule

    Comic-Con 2019 TV Schedule: When Are Your Favorite Shows Taking Over San Diego?

    This year’s San Diego Comic-Con has a feast of TV show panels and special screenings for fans. To keep you updated on the happenings this year, Variety is compiling a master list of the experiences for the July 17 to July 21 pop culture convention. Warner Bros. Television Studios was the first to announce its schedule, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content