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"Under the Tuscan Sun" is a polarizing film that seems to leave viewers (and
critics) either in love with a story of growth and renewal or dismissive of
its line. I'm firmly in the former camp.
Based so loosely on Frances Mayes's own account of her regeneration in beautiful Italy as to carry an end credit pronouncing that substantial fictionalization replaced key true details, writer and director Audrey Wells crafted a stunning vehicle for Diane Lane whose radiance projects from the screen powerfully. And in every scene.
Diane Lane, as the changed-from-the-memoir Frances, abandons San Francisco after her never shown cad husband divorces her, getting the house she once loved. Frances is a writer and literary critic. Why does she leave S.F.? Two of her closest friends give her a ticket for a gay bus tour of Italy and she jumps off the bus to look into a ramshackle old country house up for sale. Impetuosity? Definitely. Believable? Yes, actually.
Frances' new house isn't a handyman's special, it's a contractor's assurance of food on the table for a very long time. Frances adapts to the house and the locals with remarkable aplomb. Tuscany is sunny but its light fades before Frances's challenged but resilient commitment to not just restore a house but to create a home. The two aren't the same. I'm not sure how many male directors could so well create that reality.
Director Wells tells the story from a woman's heart but with a breadth of humor and drama that should appeal to anyone who wants to believe, or needs to hope, that there really is a light at the end of the tunnel of marital infidelity and dissolution.
Supporting Diane Lane is Sandra Oh as Patti, her closest friend. In relatively short scenes, Ms. Oh displays a lively and laconic grasp not only of her friend's life but also of her own which is not, as they say today, devoid of "issues."
Lindsay Duncan is Katharine, an older woman determined to hold on to her now fading attractiveness through a blend of humor, earthiness - and alcohol. Her character may be predictable but she's also fun.
Raoul Bova has garnered some press attention as handsome Marcello, the romantically available and affluent Italian. That's a character we've seen in many, many films and Bova delivers an expectedly satisfactory but hardly deep performance.
Yes, Diane Lane is beautiful but there is much more to her acting than a shining appearance. Her facial gestures, mirroring her emotions as they shift from moment to moment, are the product of extraordinary acting ability. And her character draws a powerful portrayal.
Credit also must go to cinematographer Geoffrey Simpson. Perhaps it would be impossible for a blind camera director to turn in anything but a gorgeous visage of rural and urban Italy but Simpson did do a marvelous job of making the locales come alive.
This is a film for adults, for people who can understand pain and the search for recovery and understand the difficulty of coming back from a space that once offered the mirage of safety and security.
I loved this film.
I love this movie. I don't care if it was a "chic flick" or what. Whatever,
it was so breathtakingly beautiful that anyone should be entranced by it's
sheer visual assault on the senses. When you add great performances by a
fine cast, and an interesting story, you can't loose. Who wouldn't love to
escape for an hour or so to the Italian Sun? Even the ending was realistic.
This is the second movie I've seen lately that took place in a beautiful countryside Italian Villa. The other, "My House in Umbria" was equally eye catching and enjoyable.
But I think I've reached the point of satiation. If I have to see one more movie where the lead actress has nothing to do but make friends, remodel her gorgeous Tuscan Villa, eat gourmet food on her sunny patio in the garden, have no money worries, and not work, I think I might snap. I pray daily that Diane Lane and Maggie Smith will one day be slinging hash in a Barstow truckstop and experience the real world.
In "Under the Tuscan Sun", a recently divorced American writer/critic (Lane) ventures to Italy where she sets about putting the pieces of her shattered life back together in the rustic, bucolic, scenic countryside of Tuscany. Lane registers a fine performance in this lighthearted drama spritzed with humor and romance which is as lovely as it is clumsy. Obvious in its attempts to tug at the heart-strings of romantics with all the expected Italian stereotypes and cliches, this flick received mixed reviews and will resonate most with more mature sentimentalists. Those who enjoy this film may want to check out V. Redgrave in "A Month by the Lake" (1995). (B)
This movie is wonderfully romantic. It is sweetly written and just a good girl movie. Any woman who has had any sadness in her life and needs a new start will appreciate this movie. The views are incredibly and makes you want to fly to Tuscany and live there forever! The characters are those that make you fall in love and you will relive moments in your life while watching this movie. I will say you need to be in a loving or romantic mood before watching this movie. It does take a few minutes to really get good but when it does, it's wonderful. I hope you enjoy as much as I did. A Walk in the Clouds with Keanu Reeves is also like this movie. It has the same romance and drama but is much sweeter.
Poet and writer Frances Mayes became a household name when in 1996 she
published "Under the Tuscan Sun", a book where she detailed how she and
her new lover bought and renovated an abandoned villa in Tuscany,
Italy. With her stylish prose, she made the book something more than a
mere diary of the renovation and turned into a captivating chronicle of
her trips through Italy and her familiarization with the country's rich
culture. The book's detailed account of Mayes' trips attracted director
Audrey Wells, who used the book's story of the renovation of an Italian
villa as a basis for this charming romantic comedy set in Tuscany and
starring Diane Lane.
Frances (Diane Lane) is a writer in her mid-30s currently suffering writer's block, but this is the lesser of her problems, as her husband suddenly decides to divorce her and as a result of legal issues, he keeps their house. Without a place to call home, Frances enters a state of depression, but her friend Patti (Sandra Oh) has a solution. Since Patti (who is a lesbian) has become pregnant, she and her partner offer Frances their tickets to Italy and convince her to take a holiday. While traveling through Tuscanny with the tour, Frances finds an abandoned villa for sale, and impulsively (and thanks to a series of consequences), she decides to buy it. "Under the Tuscan Sun" details France's efforts to renovate the villa and her life at the same time, as well as her encounters with many interesting characters from the beautiful Italian region.
Well, it is safe to point out that other than the tale of the renovation of an old house, Audrey Well's adaptation of the story has little to no resemblance to the book's plot. However, the way Wells mixes Mayes' Italian adventure with her character's own tribulations is almost perfect. True, the movie's plot is a bit typical and filled with some of the most common clichés in the romantic comedy genre, but it also offers some really nice (and unexpected) twists to the formula. While not exactly the detailed travelogue that Mayes' book is, this version of "Under the Tuscan Sun" really captures the magic of the Italian region and accurately shows off bits of the country's culture despite the funny use of classic stereotypes.
Director Audrey Wells takes a straight forward approach to her story, but wisely, takes full advantage of the location's awesome landscapes and the enormous talent of cinematographer Geoffrey Simpson. Together, Simpson and Wells create beautiful vistas of Italy's famous countryside that often mimic in a cleverly fashion some very well-known paintings of the same locations. The film's cinematography is definitely the movie's main asset, but it's not the only good thing in the film. While in terms of style Wells follows the romantic comedy formula somewhat to the letter, the movie is filled with a very human touch that most movies of this genre lack.
Diane Lane is simply perfect as the movie's main character, as while the role may be a bit typical, she truly added her talents to the part and made Frances a very real and likable woman. Sandra Oh is good as Frances' best friend Patti, although really less convincing than Lane. Vincent Riotta is the film's highlight, as the helpful Mr. Martini who also gives two or three lessons to the stranger in a strange land. Lindsay Duncan appears as the strange Katherine, and plays an over-the-top character with dignity and charm. Overall the rest of the cast was very good, with everyone being perfect to the part although nothing really special. By the way, watch out for a small appearance of legendary director Mario Monicelli in a small role.
It's impossible to compare the film to the book as they are both very different beasts, with very little in common; so fans of the book won't find a faithful adaptation despite the gorgeous images of Italy. As a film, "Under the Tuscan Sun" is a very effective melodrama, as while it's certainly sappy and silly at times, it offers a breath of fresh air when compared to other similar films. True, it's story may not be the most original one, but the way it's executed it's strangely charming, as if the beautiful cinematography and witty script were able to cast a magic spell on the viewers and simply captivate with their simple beauty.
It's easy to dismiss "Under the Tuscan Sun" as another silly romantic comedy filled with typical clichés and sappy situations; but while those descriptions often prove true to this film, there is something else, something more that this movie offers that makes it special, and a truly different experience to those used to watch the same plots in melodramas over and over. "Under the Tuscan Sun" may not be true to its source book, but it uses it cleverly to tells a really charming story. 7/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Well to do American divorcée with more money than brains buys a rundown villa in Tuscany. (Much more money; whilst having to dicker over the price, she subsequently manages to cook sumptuous buffets for her workmen and wander around Italy indefinitely with no job or apparent means of support.) Interminable boredom and the inevitable Italian lover ensue; this is a chick flick in the most pejorative sense of the term. Lane acts like an unskilled clueless teenage ingénue throughout - which dynamically clashes with her seriously fading looks - along the way smashing into a variety of (mostly Italian) cardboard stereotypes, dykes, divas, senile contessas and gigolos among them. Bloated with unnecessary scenes, the most ridiculous being a clumsily inserted and pointless recreation of the fountain scene in 'La Dolce Vita'. (A similar conceit was used in an effective and appropriate narrative context in 'Only You', Norman Jewison's vastly superior ode to Italy and romance). 'Tuscan Sun' may be the most vacant piece of cinema of the last decade, despite its admittedly well-lensed panoramas of Italy. Bonus negative point for the extraneous lover parachuted in at the last minute to provide requisite Hollywood ending for its targeted audience of Oprah-brainwashed housewives. Avoid at all costs, unless, of course, you view Oprah and Dr. Phil as pinnacles of intelligent discourse.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Well, 'Under The Tuscan Sun' isn't precisely unremarkable -- I am remarking
on it right now!! There aren't many truly new stories in print and cinema,
this one has been told many times -- someone finds theirself in a rut of
some kind, is reluctant to step out onto an unknown path, but does so anyway
to discover a better life. Diane Lane plays Frances, a writer, who early in
the movie finds herself single again and free to do anything she wants. She
is offered a chance to travel to Tuscany with a group of gay couples and at
first she dismisses it. When she finally does take it, her life is
transformed. The DVD has a nice Dolby 5.1 sound track, and the
cinematography is superb, with beautiful shots of the Italian countryside
and the Mediterranian coast. The 'making of' extra is only mildly
interesting, and the three deleted scenes are even less so. There is an
interesting 'Easter egg' showing how they digitally altered a man's naked
butt, covering it to get the contractually mandated 'PG-13' rating in the
USA. Overall a pleasant little movie that tries to seem important but isn't
really. I believe it is '7' movie on the 10-point scale. I cannot imagine
why 22% of the ratings are '10'.
SPOILERS are contained in the rest of my comments, beware!!
Apparently happily married, at a function for another author Frances is approached by a man whose book she had negatively reviewed, partly because the male character messed around with young women, he said "Do you see the irony?" Puzzled, then he said, 'Ask your husband.' Next thing we see is her and her attorney discussing disposition of joint property. Since he wants the house, her share is bought out, she keeps virtually nothing, goes to Italy, while on the bus sees a property for sale, against her nature gets off the bus, buys the old house, has natural 'buyer's remorse', but gets contractors and fixes it up, reminded me much of 'A Year In Provence'. In fact her strange blond friend is played by the same actress that plays 'Annie' in the 'Year in Provence' movie.
One contractor worker is a young Polish man, falls for Italian girl, parents don't approve, Frances helps convince them. Meanwhile she runs into a handsome Italian who gives her a ride to the coast, looking for fix-it-up parts, she asks him to make love to her, they apparently hit it off, but her pregnant gay friend shows up, Frances and the lover have a tough time meeting again, when she looks him up he has another girl, goes home, young couple wed in her courtyard, at the end an American (Rory Gilmore's dad) writer shows up, looking for Frances, we imagine they might hit it off. However, that doesn't matter, Frances has started a new life and is happy.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Yes i really found this film distasteful.
I didn't like the Sandra Oh character, she really annoyed me. It is unlikely she would be accepted into rural Italian life due to the fact she is non-white. this was a bit of PC nonsense.
the film is also offensive to Italian men. For instance, the one man she (Diane Lane) has an affair is turns out to be a caddish cheat. But guess what: at the end your typically plasticky American brick-head turns up, all cheesy white smile and tan, and she finally finds what she wants all along: a real American man, and now she has colonized another part of the world.
In fact, this film is quite racist in its depiction of Italians and the way it subjugates them as either smarmy lotharios or backward peasants.
the photography was good but the film and its attitude were trash.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I like a romantic comedy as much as the next moviewatcher, but this one had so many dumb things about it that I couldn't ignore them and enjoy the story. I don't even know where to begin, but I'll give it a try.
Pains are taken to impress upon us that Frances, the leading lady, doesn't have much money after her loser husband takes half the house plus alimony. Well, fine, but when she goes to Italy she suddenly becomes independently wealthy, first buying a villa then employing three Polish workers full-time to restore the place. They were there the entire duration of the movie, which covered at least 8 or 9 months. Wardrobe? She arrived with one suitcase, but never wore the same thing twice after that. We see Frances tapping absently at the laptop occasionally and I suppose we're supposed to imagine she's reviewing a book...I wish I could get on that payroll.
Italian stereotypes? You want it, you got it. Crazy old contessa who takes bird poop on the forehead of a stranger as a sign to sell her the prized villa. Okay, whatever, even though she would have gotten more money from the German couple who had first dibs. Suave love-em and leave-em Romeos? All over the place. Simple, good-hearted locals happy to pick your olives for you? A whole villageful.
And then the biggest problem of all: Diane Lane's performance. How could an actress who was so good in Unfaithful be so bad this time? She twitched and grimaced like a female Hugh Grant, using delayed reaction goggle-eyes instead of emotion. The self-grabbing congratulatory dance she did in her bedroom after scoring with her young stud was painful to watch. Another awful scene was when Patti came back pregnant and abandoned and lay in the bed crying. Diane Lane's face was vacant, with a fake little soap opera frown of concern on her brow and a simpering smile on her mouth. Awful, and inexcusable of the director to leave that shot in.
And all of this was just too long, with so many little unnecessary scenes that we didn't need. And what about that Tuscan sun we were promised? There were virtually no shots of the hot passionate sun of Italy, which would at least have helped to explain the crazy behaviour going on all around.
And after all that poor Frances ends up with a goofy-looking failed American writer, while all that prime Italian beefcake goes to waste. Like my evening watching this.
3 stars out of 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Let's get the positives of this movie out of the way:
1. Fantastic Italian scenery: From Positano to Florence, the movie shows the audience back drops that take the breath away.
2. Diane Lane: Played very well and convincing 'Frances' character.
Beyond that, the movie is plagued with so much cheese (SPOILERS WARNING):
1. Too many coincidences: Things that happen out of no where, like the bus stopping in front of the house that Frances happened to see earlier advertised on a Real Estate ad. Or France picking up Marcello just to escape the taunting Italian men. And the coincidences continue to pile.
2. Employment: I'm not sure if I am the only person to see that none of the people actually worked in this movie, except for the Polish labor, who renovated her Frances' new (old) home. Coming out of a divorce, you'd expect Frances to have only some change in her pocket, yet she's able to feast with the rest of the characters in the movie like she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. Everyone appeared to have too much time on their hands. It all is nice to fantasize, but is highly unreal. And how about Katherine? She's probably living off the alimony from her previous divorces.
3. Clichés and Stereotypes: Hearing that this was a 'chick flick', I expect some clichés, stereotype, and most important, a happy ending. Well, this movie has plenty of them. For starters, the lesbian couple was fine, but introducing the `Gay and Away' tour bus was a little too much. Secondly, seeing both Jerzy with the cigarette in his mouth and Zbigniew with the Polish novel in *every* single shot, portrayed the insignificance of their characters. Then there is the stereotype of Italian men who are nothing but unfaithful and promiscuous. And finally, through all the hardships of seeing Frances' relationships breakdown, she finds another fellow American writer (whom she criticized when he was in high school) who happens to be touring through the Tuscan region of Italy.
To sum it up, this movie is a 5/10 on my book. Some good acting from Diane Lane and great scenery, which couldn't be saved due to hard to swallow reality checks.
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