Under The Tuscan Sun

"Weak"

Under The Tuscan Sun Review


A patronizing, eye-rolling romantic fantasy aimed at lonely middle-aged women, "Under the Tuscan Sun" stars the luminous Diane Lane (its only saving grace) as a heartbroken novelist licking her wounds from a surprise divorce (the husband she put through school has left her for a younger woman) by traveling to the therapeutic Italian countryside.

Surrounded by colorful eccentrics with sexy accents who serve up allegorical fables and Hallmark-card advice ("Always keep your childish innocence!"), our heroine Frances Mayes follows a whim while on vacation and buys a picturesquely run-down old villa to renovate as a life-affirming metaphor.

Even as she frets that "There's three bedrooms -- what if there's never anyone to sleep in them?," we know there's a strapping, wavy-haired hunk with piercing eyes (Raoul Bova) waiting for her on a beach somewhere who appreciates the charms of 40-ish American women seeking validation of their desirability. And we know that while, for the sake of dramatic structure, he may not be the right guy for her (those philandering Italians!), she's learning to live by the motto "I looked for it but I didn't find it. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist!"

Well, not until the pandering happenstance of last reel salvation, anyway.

Driven by dozens of shopworn, on-cue contrivances of romance, empowerment and locality, "Under the Tuscan Sun" is a Harlequin novel of a movie, lent a pinch of unfabricated charisma by the long-underappreciated Lane, whose career has been revived by last year's Oscar nomination for "Unfaithful." Achievably beautiful and accessible enough to be an Everywoman around whom audiences can rally, she brings veracity to her flustered and forlorn character through an introspective performance of melancholy hope and good humor.

But director Audrey Wells (writer of "The Truth About Cats and Dogs") -- who adapted and further fictionalized a semi-autobiographical book by the real Frances Mayes -- leaves her star drowning in trite predictability.

Frances's Italian stallion fling begins with a meet-cute in the cobblestoned town square, followed by wine, passionate sex, watching sunsets from his balcony while wearing nothing but his shirt, and lines like, "You have beautiful eyes, Francesca. I wish I could swim in them." (This isn't excused by the fact that she responds, "That's exactly the kind of thing American women think Italian men say.")

Vespa rides through seaside villages provide postcard ambiance. Comic relief comes in house-renovation vignettes of leaky roofs and collapsing ceilings. Surrogate romanticism is served up as Frances helps one of her amiable Polish-immigrant contractors find love with a local girl who has close-minded parents.

And every time something makes Frances frown (disloyal men, a redecorating set-back), something warm and reassuring comes along to distract her in the very next scene -- like the unexpected arrival of her pregnant, token-lesbian best friend (Sandra Oh) who has just been dumped too.

"Tuscan Sun" is riddled with many more incidental problems, like over-rehearsed small talk at parties, manufactured conflicts (Frances and her Italian beau are unable to mesh schedules for three months even though she has no obligations to speak of) and bad soundstage backdrops out the windows of the fixer-upper villa.

But Frances sums up the movie best herself when composing a letter home: "Clichés abound at this navel of the world...," she writes. And how, sister! And how.



Under The Tuscan Sun

Facts and Figures

Run time: 113 mins

In Theaters: Friday 26th September 2003

Box Office USA: $43.5M

Distributed by: Buena Vista Pictures

Production compaines: Touchstone Pictures, Timnick Films, Blue Gardenia Productions, Tatiale Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 62%
Fresh: 92 Rotten: 57

IMDB: 6.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Frances, as Patti, as Katherine, as Marcello, as Martini, Mario Monicelli as Old Man with Flowers, Roberto Nobile as Placido, Anita Zagaria as Fiorella, Evelina Gori as Nona Cardinale, Giulia Steigerwalt as Chiara, Pawel Szajda as Pawel, Valentine Pelka as Jerzy, Sasa Vulicevic as Zbignew, as Nino, as Signora Raguzzi

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

xXx: Return of Xander Cage Movie Review

xXx: Return of Xander Cage Movie Review

It's been 15 years since Vin Diesel walked away from his XXX role, killing off...

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

This may not be the cheeriest movie of the season, but it's so skilfully written,...

Live By Night Movie Review

Live By Night Movie Review

Ben Affleck launched his directing career 10 years ago with his film of Dennis Lehane's...

La La Land Movie Review

La La Land Movie Review

After storming awards season with Whiplash two years ago, writer-director Damien Chazelle returns with something...

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Hopes were high that this film might finally crack the curse of movies based on...

Advertisement
Silence Movie Review

Silence Movie Review

Faith is a topic Martin Scorsese can't quite shake, courting controversy with complex films like...

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A difficult movie to market, this isn't actually the BFG-style fantasy adventure it looks like....

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Word has it that a 4-year-old came up with the idea for this unapologetically silly...

Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Dramas exploring the nature of death and the true meaning of life are always in...

Paterson Movie Review

Paterson Movie Review

Unpredictable filmmaker Jim Jarmusch ricochets from his artful vampire movie Only Lovers Left Alive into...

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

At 80 years old, British filmmaker Ken Loach won his second Cannes Film Festival with...

Why Him? Movie Review

Why Him? Movie Review

Writer-director John Hamburg continues to recycle the formula that made his first hit Meet the...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.