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This film is one of the most touching and lovely films that I have seen in many years. Its gaggle of actresses are second to none and turn out excellant performance, Joan Plowright in particular brings an irresistable sweetness to the role. People who have commented on the film so far seem to have neglected to mention the soundtrack which is beautiful and inspiring with a wonderful piano piece. Criticism that the film is too old fashioned or that the characters are unappealing and pompous seems to miss the point, the very charm of Hester (Maggie Smith in particular)is how she overcomes her snobbery at the end and realises how much Elsa (Cher, who in any other film would doubtless be misplaced but in this case fits the role like a glove) has done for the Scorpioni. In short the film is a relic of a gentler age and is simultaniously uplifting, upsetting and relaxing. I implore everyone to hunt down the soundtrack on CD to the ends of the earth if necissary.
TEA WITH MUSSOLINI is Zeffirelli's tribute to his own war-time
upbringing, and while it is undeniably sentimental, it is also a
wonderful movie. A young, illegitimate boy who is rejected by his
father (who is married to another) is raised by his secretary (Joan
Plowright). She is part of a group of English ex-pats living in life on
very fixed incomes in Florence on the eve of WWII. Plowright's
other peers include Maggie Smith as the insufferably snobbish
widow of a consulate, who never lets anyone forget her status.
There's also Judi Dench, an artist, who is a gentle soul and an
animal lover. Lily Tomlin is an American who keeps a watchful eye
on the ladies at the danger comes closer to engulfing them all.
And then there's Cher, the widow of a rich man who comes and
goes throughout Europe in search of good art and a good time. All
these women have come to love the young boy who is now about
14 when the movie begins. Cher, whose character is Jewish is
damn near ruined by a scheming lover, and her life is in danger.
The British contingent has been sent to close quarters in Sienna
where they are forced to live in close proximity to each other, as
prisoners of war. The war is nearly over with the Americans
advancing on Sienna. The young man helps to arrange Cher's
escape and the woman stop bickering long enough to help the
Americans liberate Sienna and all ends happily.
Some have complained that Cher is terrible in this movie.
Nonsense. She's playing a head-strong, independent woman
who is in charge of her own life. This is a variation of the same
theme she has worked as an actress, entertainer and personality
for more than 40 years. The final parting with the young boy is
tear-inducing. Cher looks sensational and gives a heart-felt
performance. The ladies--Dames Joan, Maggie and Judi are
adorable and winning as expected with Lily Tomlin offering a
wonderful portrait of a tough journalist who comes to their support
when the going gets rough. The young boy as Zeffirelli is also
terrific. The scenery is gorgeous, and you can't see too many
stories about interesting, off-beat characters on the loose in Italy
as far as I'm concerned.
This film could have been titled 'four crazy grannies' for the marvelous
portrayal of little old ladies, each more eccentric than the next. Like
comedy team of Matthau and Lemon, Dench, Smith and Plowright have a
chemistry that is explosive.
Maggie Smith played a role that she has spent a lifetime perfecting. She captivates us as a snobbish dowager, tantalizes us with her improbable tea party and brings us to tears when she demonstrates her capacity to grow.
Although she may not have wowed us with her Shakespeare, Joan Plowright's compassion for her sudden charge made me wish (that at age 32) she would adopt me. Her love of the classics, remind us that art, literature and friends can help us transcend life's constant miseries.
Cher demonstrated that she could act in any time period. While Dame Judi Dench (not allowing herself to be typecast as a Queen) portrays a particularly pitiful creature as an aging artist with more passion than talent.
This film sends a clear message to Hollywood: experience and talent win out over T&A.
Applause at the end of this movie is to be expected.
This is a melodrama and you should not expect anything else. But what a melodrama! In the hands of a great director, using an eccentric story involving some eccentric people, it conveys straight to the heart how the great darkness descended upon Europe in the 1930's. It tells you that the greatest evil is the work of humans, and that the potential for evil lurks in the human soul. But, and here is the movie greatest strength, it shows you that humans possess the capacity to be human and to act human, when they heed Shakespeare's advice: "Love thyself last". All the negative comments that can be made about this or that deficiency caused me to downgrade this movie's rating from a "10" to a mere "9". Go see it. If you have kids - make sure to take them along for a great and satisfying lesson about life as it should be lived.
Another Judi Dench film that in no way disappoints.
This film opens the mind even more to that important chapter in history and lets you look from various perspectives at events.
I found it a really fascinating film, absolutely beautiful cinematography.
Excellent story telling, narrative, really well paced and put across.
And wonderfully acted across the board, from main characters to all the supporting cast, I did not realise Cher was such a good actress.
Stories like this based on fact, are so wonderful.
And the movie captures Florence, so pleasingly, you will long to visit.
A welcome break from the mindless action flicks.
I had wanted to see this film for some time and when the opportunity
materialised I was enthralled. It is probably the best performance I have
seen by Maggie Smith, who often seems to be playing the same character
actually. But this is her best since Miss Jean Brodie, and Joan Plowright,
Judi Dench, Lily Tomlin and Cher are all equally impressive.
The settings are skilfully designed to draw the viewer in, and when you are setting your movie in Florence and its environs you can't go wrong anyway. The ongoing clash between two worlds i.e. Lady Hester Random (Maggie Smith) versus Elsa (Cher) reaches a satisfying resolution which it would be unfair to reveal.
There are splendid comic vignettes mixed into the overall drama. Judi Dench and her dog being thrown out of the cathedral, sharply contrasts with the chilling moment when the Jewish arts professor is taken away by the Gestapo. Understated but none the less effective, probably more so, because of it.
If you haven't seen this film, see it as soon as you can.
It's certainly not clear how fictionalized a version of Zeffirelli's
autobiography "Tea With Mussolini" is, what with the usual disclaimers
at the end. Even presuming this is just a riff off an incident in his
life, that he had some contact with memorable English ladies, it's
clearly his tribute to where his love of English literature comes from,
particularly Shakespeare. He's done several Shakespeare
interpretations-- movies, opera and play directing. The film has a
lovely scene of him being first introduced to acting out "Romeo &
Juliet" with puppets, as well as constant quotes from Shakespeare
throughout about war and his situation.
I was surprised how good the movie was - I was in tears several times, especially with visuals that bring up the same comparisons as "The Train" did, with art vs. war, humanity's heights of creativity vs. its lows of prejudice and violence.
These Oscar-winning ladies are absolutely terrific, yes including Cher. One elderly gentleman behind me complained that Maggie Smith basically always plays the same character but I thought her character does change towards the end. The others were certainly not their usual on-screen personas, Judi Dench as a free-spirited artist, Joan Plowright as a quite warm-hearted grandmotherly type, and Lily Tomlin a hoot as a butch archaeologist.
But why choose bland Italian actors for them to play off of? To make the Scorpioni, as they are called, stand out more? The Italians seemed stereotyped to me, Latin lover, ignorant peasants not appreciating their ancient artistic heritage.
What the movie also brought to mind is how few Italian movies have dealt with their fascist past as much as the French have been exploring their consciences of collaboration in film. Sure "Garden of Finzi Continis," "Two Women" and "Life Is Beautiful" show arrests, etc. but I don't get the sense of soul searching as to how did this happen here and could it again? Just because they didn't have Shakespeare and appreciate the treasures of the Uffizi as this film implies? (originally written 5/15/1999)
This film is directed and co-authored by Franco Zeffirelli, and I couldn't resist speculating on how much of it was actually true, since it is said to be based on Zeffirelli's autobiography. However, true in part, true completely, in the end it doesn't really matter. What matters is the amazing ensemble acting by Maggie Smith, Cher, Joan Plowwright, Judi Dench and Lily Tomlin (listing them in the order of significance to the story) and the stunning beauty of Florence where the film is set. The director and photographer plainly love the city, matching the love for it of the characters. Maggie Smith as the widow of a former British ambassador, the character that actually has tea with Mussolini, is the dominant figure in the film. However, Cher, playing a wealthy American -- vulgar in the eyes of he British ladies -- who turns out to be a complex, philanthropic Jew who must be smuggled out of the country in the end; Joan Plowwright as a kind lady who takes in the bastard son of an Italian businessman and teaches him to be an English gentleman; Judi Dench as an eccentric artist whose passion is to preserve a renaissance fresco from the Nazis during the war, and Lily Tomlin as a lesbian American archaeologist all deliver sterling performances. Cher's performance is the most amazing -- she holds her own in formidable company -- but one expects, of course, to be dazzled by Maggie Smith, Joan Plowwright, Judi Dench and even by Lily Tomlin. It's a sentimental, even melodramatic, tale, but see it for the ensemble acting. I can't think of another film that equals Tea with Mussolini in that respect.
After nearly 20 years as a top pop and television star, Cher suddenly skyrocketed to film stardom in the mid-80's, walked off with an Academy Award, ranked among the top ten box-office stars and just as suddenly disappeared from the big screen in 1991 after one last hit "Mermaids"(1990) cleaned up at cinemas. In 1999 she made a tremendous comeback with a multimillion selling CD "Believe"(Warner Bros, 1998) and most impressively returned to the big screen with a luminous performance in Franco Zefferelli's "Tea With Mussolini"(MGM,1999). Reviews were mixed but after I saw this in the movie theater, I felt the film was rather good. Based on an autobiography by Zefferelli recounting his early years trying to survive the Nazi-Mussolini atrocities of WWII. During this dangerous time Zefferelli was protected by a coterie of socialite dowagers played splendidly by Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright, Lily Tomlin and of course Cher who was perfectly cast as a gorgeous Jewish chanteuse. The story has some holes and the film was probably edited down too much for its US release that cause some continuity issues but this is overall a charming, thoughtful period piece highlighted by Cher at her latter day peak. Shame this success did not resuscitate her dormant film career. She has made nothing of note since.
I wish I could give this movie a "10" but I can't. I'm not exactly sure
why but to me, it's a solid "9".
The characters in this movie are engrossing and distinctively human. One cannot help but fall in love with the Scorpioni and their individual quirks.
Cher, as usual adds her own distinctive flair to the mix and I cannot envision any other actress playing her role. She was perfect.
There are so many aspects to this movie to enjoy. So many emotions. Joy, pain, sorrow, love, hope, reconciliation, admiration, pride, selflessness...so many.
It's a great movie worth watching. Enjoy.
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