Under the Tuscan Sun (2003) Poster

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9/10
Diane Lane is Brighter Than the Tuscan Sun
Ralph Michael Stein28 September 2003
"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.

9/10.
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Diane Lane in Italy. Nothing else matters in this nice but unremarkable movie.
TxMike4 February 2004
Warning: 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.
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Gorgeous Eye Candy
PrairieCal15 February 2004
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.
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7/10
A stroll down a Tuscan Lane
George Parker4 February 2004
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)
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7/10
Sappy and unrealistic, but still strangely charming...
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
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9/10
Lovely movie
breedingnd17 December 2005
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.
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8/10
I Really Loved This Film
luckylib1414 May 2006
So, I've heard this film got the beating because it wasn't like the book? Ah, well, trust me; I'm a huge book-lover (and Harry Potter fan), so I can say that if I had read the book and was an immense fan, I probably wouldn't have liked the film if it had taken the basis out of the original story. I truly sympathize with those of you who disliked this film because it did not go with the book in some way or another. ;)

Although, since I love writing myself, I have a very wonderful relationship with this film and its delicious scenery, how the characters in it build in confidence, and the whimsical things that seem to be thrown in it artfully. Yes, there are some so-called "cliches", which is a word I hate using. We use that word to describe things that happen every day in our life, things that repeat themselves in storybooks and films and are heard so often that we are likely to vomit with expectancy of it all. But the thing that hit me about this film is that a lot of things happen that you really don't expect. The coming-of-age story has been told for ages, and will be expressed forever, with all its little tidbits of similar goings-on (serious situation happens, main character finds escape, love, broken heart, confusion..etc.). I don't think an entire genre of literature can deny its existence, now, can it? :)

The acting is superb, and it has a lot of light-hearted moments that lift it up. It's basically about accepting yourself before you can truly find "Mr.Right", and realizing that you shouldn't put the blame on yourself for every single thing in your life that happens, and about taking chances because life can have pros and cons. I even think that some men would like it. This film was very inspiring to me, and although I didn't see it in theaters, I left my couch feeling very creative and content, as if I wasn't the only one who got inspiration from the little things life seems to hand out.
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6/10
Attractive!
zfiany18 November 2009
It's a story about how people who want things badly rush themselves into experiences that are worse than their previous ones. It's a good movie with several deep messages. The movie also has a certain atmosphere that makes you feel as if you are in Tuscan on a trip yourself. I have to disagree with the view that says you need to be in love to enjoy the movie. All what you need is some depth and you will definitely relate to the protagonist. She happens to be healing from a failing marriage but you can relate to her story if you are dealing with any kind of problems in your life.

There is one specific part of the movie which I truly like is the one where she defends the love story of a young couple though she was hurt. This shows that even though she failed she didn't cease to believe in love. She succeeded in going out of the egocentricity of a person who usually hates good for people if his life is not working successfully.
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1/10
Can I give this a zero?
tezhowes8 January 2008
Warning: 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.
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1/10
absolute garbage and racist towards Italians
mombasa_pete23 January 2007
Warning: 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.
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1/10
Too long and too illogical
MoonsofJupiter15 February 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Unavoidable 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.
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7/10
Italian for beginners...
jotix1009 November 2003
Something very strange happened on the way to make this film. It appears as though director and adapter, Audrey Wells, threw the original text away only to create her own trip to Tuscany. With the help of her gorgeous star, Ms. Wells found backing for this pastiche she ended up presenting to us, which bears almost no resemblance to the original book by Frances Mayes.

This is a movie full of cliches: The lonely and naive American tourist that would stay in Italy, the Latin lover, the good lesbian friend, and last, but not least, the eccentric Brit living in the small town!

The best thing this film offers is the radiant Diane Lane, who is just gorgeous enough to make us forget the story and what is she doing in the mess she is in. Also, Lindsay Duncan, another great British actress doing a crude interpretation of her own "La Dolce Vita" some 44 years later.

This is a typical "date film" which will be enjoyed by those people that didn't read the book.
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5/10
Too Much Cheese...
Pablo Picassimo1 November 2003
Warning: 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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3/10
What utter rubbish
f-moriconi211 April 2007
I've just seen this film, and I've never laughed so much in my life! First of all I'm Italian and most importantly I live in Tuscany..... The things that happen in this film don't happen in real Italian life. Let's start: Italy is a bureaucratic nightmare, so if she(Frances) wanted to buy and live here she must wait months and months before she gets the house. In the village where she lives there are a lot of Italian stereotypes that you'll never find in Italy. In Italy, especially in small towns people speak bad Italian and mostly in dialect (even if you knew a little Italian you probably wouldn't understand)let alone speak English. The polish are quite uncommon in Italy, there are a lot of Moroccans and Albanians. Even if middle Italian beauty is higher than other countries,finding men like Raul Bova(Marcello) in the street is rare. The man that puts flowers in the vase everyday, in real life at the end of the film instead of saying hello,would have put his middle finger up ( in a rude gesture). Hardly anybody has fresco's in their home. The wedding dress the young girl wears looks as if its fifty years old. If you go in a fountain, the police would arrest you.....DON'T DO THAT IF YOU COME HERE!!!! If you ask a policeman for a lift(even if you are Naomi Campbell) he won't. In Florence hospitals you'll never find Armani or Vesace covers.

I've found a few truths as well: The old ladies usually are quite funny. The explanation that Chiara's mother gave about marriage is realistic. The young guys of Rome are like that. The man who continually says YES and OK. The explanation of Marcello about traffic lights in Campania is true. The big meals.

The good of this film is that it brings lots of tourists here.
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1/10
SAD,BORING and not ROMANTIC
lloyd-eppolito-128 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The movie had no excitement and does not have anything to hold your interest. The movie had nothing exiting,funny,dramatic or romantic about it!!! How can a movie be romantic if the girl never gets a the right guy until the last seen in the movie, than the movie ends??? Maybe part II will be romantic, but somebody else will have to risk wasting their money! I have nothing else to say other than do not waste your time!!! The movie had nothing exiting,funny,dramatic or romantic about it!!! The movie had nothing exiting,funny,dramatic or romantic about it!!! The movie had nothing exiting,funny,dramatic or romantic about it!!! The movie had nothing exiting,funny,dramatic or romantic about it!!!
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7/10
A Delightful Romance, With a Tour Through the Wonders of Italy and a Great Homage to the Italian Cinema
Claudio Carvalho29 March 2005
When the American writer and critic Francesca (Diane Lane) divorces from her husband, she becomes very depressed. Meanwhile, her lesbian friend Patti (Sandra Oh) gets pregnant and Patti and her mate decide to give their travel to Tuscan in a gay tour as a gift to Frances, to lift her moral. Once in Italy, Frances decides to spend all her savings, buying an old villa in an impulsive decision. While reforming the place, Frances finds wonderful places, friendship with the locals and love. "Under the Tuscan Sun" is a delightful romance, with a tour through the wonders of Italy and a great homage to the Italian cinema, with a reference to "La Dolce Vita" and a minor participation of Mario Monicelli. Diane Lane looks like wine, becoming more gorgeous along the years, and with a lovely face and smile. I have never had the chance to visit Italy, and after seeing the magnificent locations and the nice people of Italy, I believe most of the viewers will have the feeling of expecting to have a chance to visit such a marvelous place. I really liked this enjoyable film. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "Sob o Sol da Toscana" ("Under the Tuscan Sun")
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1/10
Yes, Simply Awful!
Leftbanker5 August 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Why bother to visit Italy when you can just bring a bunch of tired clichés to life? They even managed to throw in some clichés about homosexuals just in case anyone needed a little extra patronizing. I have never been able to make it all the way through this disaster of a movie no matter how hard I tried. It's a mess on every level and even the scenery of Tuscany isn't enough to save it.

I've always said that bad acting is the result of terrible directing and this film is a clinic of bad directing and terrible acting. How many stupid muggings can we watch of the protagonist expressing sadness, joy, pleasure, fear, surprise, disgust, or whatever? It's the director's responsibility to get what he or she wants and to instruct the actors. The best thing is to cut out all of the stupid and Completely obvious emotions and convey these things through dialogue whenever possible.

The director lets her people run amuck in this thing. The English woman who appears like a phantom seems to be a female Liberace, and I don't mean that in a good way. She is simply another dumb stereotype of an eccentric, gentry-class denizen. Her lesbian friend is simply annoying. The three workers are paper-thin and wholely predictable at every turn.

Ugh, I hated almost every scene in the film. She over-acts at almost every turn of the camera. Why did the director frame her face in so much of the film? Turn the sound off and watch this and I guarantee you will laugh yourself sick at the bad acting clinic she seems to be giving.

The love angle in the movie was corny at best and embarrassing at worst and played like a teenage girl's rendering of how it should be. And finally she meets Joe Whitebread and lives happily ever after. Just completely horrible all along the way.
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1/10
Diane Laine smiles a lot & solves everyones problems. Fantasy Rubbish, AVOID! AVOID!
mikestollov27 February 2004
How on earth these movies still get made I'll never know. Derivative in the extreme, it is a by-the-numbers-movie graced only by some good camera work & locations that are undeniably agreeable on the eye.

Diane Laine plays a newly divorced professional writer desperately searching for answers to her sad life. Around her are the disfunctional & simplistic characters seen a thousand times before. The disfunctional represent her past, the simplistic her spiritual future, the return to her own personal Eden. Blah blah blah.

The film exploits not only the "chick dollar" but the "pink dollar" too by sending her away on a gay holiday. I suppose this was an attempt by the producers to widen the audience & so increase revenues, but anyone who fell for the "gay & away" line will be disapointed as it is a device quickly disposed of, but by then it's too late as you've paid & are in the cinema.

On this tour she sees a house & buys it on a whim. Obviously this girl has never tried to do business in Italy, where things can be slow to say the least! Anyway she ends up with this abandonned villa that is in dire need of several million dollars of renovation.

So where's the army of workers who renovate the house? Surely the Polish handyman wasn't working 24/7 to do all this, was he? Or are we to believe that the place simply needs a coat of paint & hence took only a few days? If so why was it in such bad shape? Do we accept that Ms Laine does this all herself? Then how did she get round Italian immigration laws that allowed her to stay for the years this would have taken her? It's utter poppycock from start to finish.

Raoul Bova as Marcello is predictable to the extreme, only a naive cretin would miss the clumsy way his character was set up to be unfaithful to her. YAWN! When I saw this movie I was amazed how the audience was surprised by Ms Laine's discovery of this fact! I have news for these people, when you go to Disney Land & meet Mickey Mouse it's really only a guy in a suit. Got that? Good!

What really made me groan was the tap (faucet). I watched this incredibly obvious & shallow plot device & chose my time to sigh in a loud voice "Let me guess, the damned tap will be finally running" just before the sound of running water was heard. Of course the tap's dryness was a symbol for Ms Laine's parched & empty life. Now it is providing water again she is fullfilled....... hand me a sick bag PLEASE!

It is just SOOOO predictable.

Of course there were a few highlights, mostly, as I mentioned, the scenery which was very well handled. There was also the dress Ms Laine wore on the scooter ride to her "boyfriend" which was simply a classic, with well handled photography & direction & let's face it she looked stunning. Also there was the gratuitous "bouncing boobs" episode where she runs down a steep hill wearing a tight T shirt. Ah well, I suppose the husbands & boyfriends dragged along for the ride on this movie had to have something to wake them up!

All in all it is another example of the lack of imagination in Hollywod right now. What plus points it has are vastly outweighed by the negatives, although I have no doub that it could have been a lot worse.

Perhaps the most stunning criticism I heard was someone in the exit line who grumbled "It's nothing like the book, they changed practicaly the whole story & made a mess of it".
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1/10
One of the worst movies I've ever endured
Talon_driver3 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I watched this with my wife one night. We thought it was about the escapades of a woman fixing up an old house since the DVD cover describes the movie as a "romantic comedy". It isn't. This is a "chick flick" and not even a good one. Even my wife hated it. There is no plot, nor much point to the movie. You keep waiting for something good (or at least interesting) to happen, but it never does. There are a few laugh lines and a good reenactment from La Dolce Vita. That's it. When the credits begin to roll, you realize that there really isn't anything to take away from the movie, and that you have wasted 2 hours of your life that would have been better spent watching nearly anything else, not counting Tele-Tubbies. Let me echo other comments about wondering if/when anyone in the movie ever works to earn a living. If you have to watch this, at least enjoy the scenery.
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1/10
Utter garbage
D C5 July 2006
Ridiculous, nauseating doggerel with terrible acting; ineptly, superficially, and condescendingly trawling all the most banal clichés about Tuscany and Italy, divorce and midlife. The main actor nervously grimaces her way through the film, struggling to portray the appropriate level of smug, self-congratulatory self-pity the worthless character and script call for. I'm sure the book was bad, but it can't have been this bad! The camera is permanently fitted with a vomit-yellow "Tuscan" lense filter (perhaps the Tuscan sun wasn't Tuscan enough?), which they forgot to remove when the scene shifts to Rome and (how imaginative!) the Amalfi coast. You've never seen the white marble of Rome's Vittorio Emmanuelle monument looking so yellow... I mean Tuscan. One of the worst movies ever, and therefore quite worth a look.
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Stolen Beauty, Van Gogh Beauty
tedg28 September 2003
The real life situation involves two relatively lowbrow intellectuals who seek pleasure in Tuscany. They have some minor adventures, mostly related to renovations that took place while they were in their real home in California. Since she can write, she writes a book about the experience that reflects her own appreciation of those pleasures. That appreciation is still fresh mainly because she hasn't actually committed to Tuscan life.

So we have a book. It exists as a conduit for referenced visceral pleasures. Such a conduit depends on not having a connected story.

Now we have a movie of the same title. We not only have an imposed story (of a woman's self discovery and resexualization), that story is emphasized by all sorts of parallel threads: the resurrection of the house (even the "opening" of a certain watertap), the exuberant troubled passion of two teenagers, the episodes of an aging local beauty and the birth of a daughter from her spurned gay friend -- even the eventual acknowledgment of our troubled adventurer by the land as denoted by an local deity delivering flowers.

The overlay of Tuscan pleasures is supposed to elevate this project from the ordinary such.

But let's suppose you really believe what is being preached in this movie: to never settle for the mundane, but actively seek the richest path (as measured by lasting pleasure). In that case, there will be other films that you should see, projects that are more beautiful, many indeed. And projects that don't have to hide their innate pleasures behind insipid romance. Also, as a book, "A Trip to the Beach" may suit you better as a commitment to a new food-driven Latin life than "Tuscan."

As an engineered product, this film has something more interesting than the imposed redundant stories. It realizes that -- so far as the film -- it is about a trip to a place that only exists in movies. Or more precisely, the richness comes not from the real place but the fiction imposed on it by its inhabitants. The predominant vehicle for this is Italian film.

So we have the magi-mentor in this story as a character from famous Italian films, nearly as if she stepped out of a Fellini film into this one. We have the tide turn with our heroine when she attends a movie. We have lots of allusions to writing, photographing, and cooking-as-cinema. All the advice about life is from a filmmaker.

And. And we have the sunflowers. Now sunflowers do figure in the book and in the native landscape. But they -- and several references to the "Tuscan light" are here because they reference Van Gogh. There's a direct visual reference as well with a huge Thuja tree, Van Gogh's sunflower exploits were well to the west and in another country. But what matters here is the combination of his visual enthusiasm with his writing about that enthusiasm. He really would have said you can smell the purple.

Think I'm kidding? Look at the primary framing device: not writing, but writing about writing (aka reviewing). She is sent on her journey as the result of a scriptwriter writing lines about her writing about someone's writing. And her journey ends (with Ed) the same way.

Still think I'm off track? Check out 'Guinevere' which has the same sort of thing: world of film directing the 'real' life depicted in the film. And a much better job too.

I will recommend "Italian for Beginners" for people who want a more engaging use of cinematic northern Italy to heal a broken heart. Or "Wings of the Dove" for those who want things more visually. Even "Stealing Beauty," which is the template for this, is richer. Or if you can focus on food instead of landscapes: "Eat Drink Man Woman," "Vatel" or "Big Night."

Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
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10/10
Excellent!
Drewboy-21 November 2003
From beginning to end, this film is a classic! Last night I was in a very down mood and I went to see this movie that I'd heard so much about. Sure enough, it didn't disappoint! What a story of triumph over circumstances! The lush Italian scenery, the colorful characters, the Romeo-and-Juliet romance between a lovely Italian girl and a Polish laborer - breathtaking! Loved the Italian grandma - she saved the day for her granddaughter by her testimony. Sandra Oh did an incredible job, but the true credit for this picture goes to Diane Lane - what a beautiful smile she has. She was perfect for this role. My recommendation? GO SEE THIS FILM!
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Chick Flick for the Scenery, Not for the Romance or Brains
noralee5 October 2003
"Under the Tuscan Sun" is a glossy chick flick with a radiant star and beautiful scenery, but that was just not enough for me to get beyond wincible dialogue and cornball situations.

Beautiful, talented Diane Lane is certainly deserving of a star vehicle and I pluncked down my full fare to be sure she gets credit for putting this fanny in a seat.

I do note that screenplay co-writer/director Audrey Wells (who played on chick flick stereotype turnabouts much more creatively in her script for "The Truth About Cats and Dogs") womanfully put some creative tweaks on creaky conventions of the genre -- the caustic best friend is a pregnant lesbian Asian-American (one of my favorite actresses, Sandra Oh, who has been so good in little Canadian dramas and as a comedienne in "Arli$$"), we don't have to meet the one-dimensional two-timing husband, the secondary stories have some different ethnic gloss, and there's a little twist in the concluding romantic expectations. Poor Lindsay Duncan being the usual eccentric Brit, stuck in Fellini fantasies, complete with a ridiculous Anita-Ekberg-in-the-fountain imitation.

We get only a hint of real Italian men's machismo as yet again in movies a fantasy Mediterranean clime is used to loosen up an Anglo's sensuality (as Lane gloriously exults in a funny salute to herself: "I've still got it!")-- is this now a tourist marketing ploy? Even a festival is thrown in for literal local color for no other particular reason.

With the male eye candy here not even given any interesting characterization, I tolerated sitting through it more restlessly than even recent weak chick flicks "Alex and Emma" and "Maid in Manhattan."
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4/10
Gimme something I can use!
CMUltra6 April 2005
Under the Tuscan Sun 2003

Under the Tuscan Sun is very much a chick flick and I dig chick flicks. So how disappointed was I in this? Very.

When I bought the DVD I actually kept putting off watching it till the right time. You know: Sofa-Cocoa-Movie. At least the cocoa was good.

A good movie of this type has changes in tempo, swings in mood that carry us through the story. Tuscan Sun just maintained this steady drumbeat of … monotony. I like Diane Lane but she seemed to pretty much mail in her performance here.

I came away from the movie unmoved. No character, no story line was developed in any interesting way. Gimme something I can use! Italy, however, was fabulous. The cinematography and glimpses into Italian homes and lives give this movie 4 stars.
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4/10
Exasperating failure
taxib2 August 2004
The movie starts off promisingly, with the Diane Lane character discovering the infidelity of her husband and the ensuing heartbreak of divorce. Almost nothing works after that. The problem is the logic of the thing -- her two gay friends exchange their tickets to Italy for one first class for her. Okay I can maybe buy that. She goes on a gay tour and is sad, sad, sad. She runs into a flamboyant Blanche Dubois type and is instantly fascinated with her -- not my reaction, I found her cliché and unbelievable, but each to her own. Then she sees "the house" and her whole life changes. My b.s. detector went up big time when she jumped off the bus, left the tour, and managed to finesse the house away from the couple who had already made an accepted offer. (The bird crap on the head as a sign from God was particularly annoying.) Then there are the men in her life -- a married Italian hottie, a fickle Italian hottie, and the age-appropriate Italian not-so hottie with whom you'd like to see her end up but he's married and faithful, how boring of him. By the time she gets to the last-minute young American guy, you really don't care.

The subplot characters also didn't work. Poor Lindsay Duncan obviously wasn't told whether she was totally insane or just quirky. The Polish workers were beyond cliché, the romance between the young Polish guy and the young Italian girl felt like a studio note, and Sandra Oh... oh, never mind.

But the worst part is, it's supposed to be a story about a woman who buys a house in Tuscany and the renovation of it gives her new purpose in life -- and you really don't see the house. You kind of get a glimpse in the first shot. You see a couple of rooms get painted and a wall get knocked down. But you don't get the satisfaction of watching the transformation of a house from falling apart mess to enchanting villa. That, for me, was the biggest disappointment. I could have sat through all the 'I'm so sad and I hope I have sex soon' stuff, if I could have watched an exciting home renovation. But that's me.

As for Diane Lane, she worked very, very hard but the material was so thin it looked like a lot of exertion for nothing. And the cutesy stuff she was forced to do was hard to watch, as I think of her as a more serious actress than that.

As a final insult to our intelligent, there's a faucet sticking out of a wall that runs dry in the beginning, starts to drip as Diane Lane gets ... what? Juicier, I suppose. And by the end it is positively gushing, my friends! Get it? Gushing!

Which this review is not.
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