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Hannah Taylor Gordon,
1935. A group of elderly British women, who the Italians have named the Scorpioni, have chosen Italy, specifically Florence, as a place to live to blend their proper British sensibilities with their love of Italian art and culture. One of those Scorpioni, Mary Walsh, works as the English secretary for Paolo Innocente, who, in part because of his own wife's adamant refusal, largely neglects his illegitimate adolescent son, Luca, despite Paolo's want for Luca to grow up to be a proper young man, much like the English. Luca has lived in an orphanage since his dressmaker mother's death, death a concept that Luca does not yet understand. As such, he often runs away looking for his mother. On a mutual agreement between Paolo and Mary, Mary becomes Luca's guardian, she who will receive help in raising Luca by her fellow Scorpioni and financial help from Paolo as needed. Associated with the Scorpioni is a brash younger nouveau riche Jewish-American woman named Elsa Morgenthal, who, because of... Written by
Elsa is referred to as "a Jew". Until long after World War II, a female Jew in Europe was referred to as "a Jewess". See more »
The love affair between the artistically-inclined English community and Florence was soon to be overshadowed by the clouds of war.
But at the moment the sun is still shining on the squares and statues, and the dictator Mussolini is the gentleman who makes the trains run on time.
Excuse me, are you the Consul?
Connie Raynor of the Morning Post. I'm fascinated to know what His Majesty's Consul in Florence makes of it all?
I can't believe your readers would be ...
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A Good Movie With Just a Little Bit Missing. *** out of ****
"Tea With Mussolini" is a good movie with just a little bit missing. There isn't a major flaw present, nor is there any outright bad filmmaking. The film itself has a lot of colorful characters, gentle subplots, twisted dialogue and emotional depth. What it is lacking is just about everything else. The story is said to be a nugget out of the life of writer director Franco
Zeffirelli, who in the mid 1930s and the early 1940s in Florence, is replaced with a young boy named Luca who is being raised in as an orphan. He doesn't know, but his mother is dead, and his father is married to another woman and doesn't give a bag of bones about his rightful him.
There we have it, the first act of the movie. Just a few scenes. Just a few minutes. We meet the characters and discover the problem: Luca has no one. The message so simple and sweet, thus it is almost a shame that the second act begins immediately with the solution: The boy's father's secretary, Mary Wallace, decides to adopt him. She is part of an eccentric community of British refugees called the Scorpioni, who sip tea and take part in Italy's wonders. The team includes Arabella (Judi Dench), Georgie (Lily Tomlin), Mary (Joan Plowright) and is led by the snotty Hester (Maggie Smith), whose late husband was England's ambassador to Italy, working with the dictator Mussolini. The boy becomes indulged into the group making many life long friends.
A subplot in the film deals with Hester's hostility against Elsa (Cher), a rich American art collected providing help for the Scorpioni and Luca's future, sharing the same interests as the ladies.
As the war grows more and more powerful, and when Italy enters the side of Germany, the English are classified as enemies who must be strung together into a small shelter to be held for the duration of the war.
The plot gets more and more complicated, to the point of feeling a sense of a false second act. But after analyzing the movie a little more in depth, I observe it's structure is nothing more than the cunningly common three act formula. There are several stories in one here, making the movie's structure deceiving.
The performances are pretty good. Cher especially does well with another perfectly casted character worthy of a nomination for best supporting actress. Judi Dench, Joan Plowright, Maggie Smith and Lily Tomlin form the perfect team the old ladies' club, all delivering top notch performances. A further nice touch to the film's credit goes to the amazingly realistic aging process of Luca, from young boy to teenager, the resemblance of the actors (Charlie Lucas and Baird Wallace)make this an emotional journey easy to buy into.
I suppose that within the boundaries the filmmakers do a good job of giving us variety, but the boundaries are too strict here. I felt like that seeing the glamorous Italian scenery and a bunch of elders enjoying life wasn't exactly enough to hold interest for the running length, which is almost two hours. True, the characters provided an interesting prospective of life in Italy in the 1930s, but even they couldn't hold the movie together for two hours.
I liked "Tea With Mussolini," but I am sure many audiences will not. The movie is soapy and historical (one of the better period film's to come down the road in some time, may I add), the thematic elements may though some off, and there isn't a whole lot of relevance in the film either. Not a great production by any means, but "Tea With Mussolini" does end up coming off as a marginally passable journey into the heart of Italy in the 1930s.
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