Under the Tuscan Sun
review by Paula Nechak, 26 September 2003

I have no doubt that Under the Tuscan Sun will not fail to appeal to and slavishly please a certain faction of audience: those who believe these kinds of things will actually happen to an average Joe or Jane and that opportunities such as this can arise for most of us who live on a middle-class income and with kids and cars and school fees. The film is a fairy tale for the privileged: flagrantly gorgeous to look at, easily earnest in its sincerety and it carries the weight of a hummingbird’s fluttering wing in its message to not ever quit trying and believing.

Under the Tuscan Sun is based upon one of those obscenely popular escapist books that deal with Americans falling in love with, say, Provence (A Year in Provence) or in this case, Tuscany. Based upon Frances Mayes’ bestselling book, director and writer Audrey Wells (The Truth About Cats and Dogs, Guinevere) nevertheless concedes her script is a "loose" adaptation of its source text.

The actor Diane Lane, who is certainly accomplished and graced with an intelligent sexiness is under a great deal of scrutiny and pressure to carry her first film since splashing back from maudlin roles last year as an upper-middle-class wife swept away in a doomed and adulterous affair in Adrian Lyne’s Unfaithful. That was a role that bequeathed this very fine and smart performer with a best actress Oscar nomination - which she rightfully deserved for her nuanced, complex performance. But Lane is more complicated than Wells’ shallow adaptation, one which gives her little to do but reflect in voice over or wistfully succumb to the lame cliches of the script, and she comes across somewhat over the top because of the callow material.

Lane plays Mayes, a writer from San Francisco who discovers her husband is cheating on her. Soon divorced and disenfranchised, Frances takes up residence in a furnished apartment for newly-liberated singles. Her friend, a very pregnant Patti (Sandra Oh) presents her with a ticket for Italy - and after much rumination and the realization that she could ostensibly be stuck in this sad hell forever, Frances grabs the opportunity.  The obvious occurs: she meets a mysterious and glamorous omen (Lindsay Duncan) straight out of a Fellini film, who encourages her to buy Bramasole, which translates to "something that yearns for the sun," a run down villa that is 300 years old. Frances takes a gamble, tossing caution, to the four winds.

"You’ve bought a house for a life you don’t even have," she ruminates later, sodden with buyer’s remorse. But no matter, the Tuscan gods are good: in short order she is having the run-down villa restored by the most decent and honest crew of workers imaginable, meets a handsome antiques dealer and plays hostess to the town’s misfits and regulars.

There is an undercurrent of condescention in the elementary easy gratification of Under the Tuscan Sun. It seduces with its beauty and spoon fed dose of possibility but underneath lies something less than liberated dreams come true. The film is too "too:" too beautiful, too calculated, too eager and ultimately too simplistic. It’s got less gristle than a Lifetime movie and it rankles just a bit because it purports to be one woman’s clutch at a new life when it seems she’s merely looking for a duplicate of the old one in an exotic new venue.

Written and
Directed by:

Audrey Wells

Diane Lane
Sandra Oh
Lindsay Duncan
Raoul Bova
Vincent Riotta
Mario Monicelli
Roberto Nobile
Anita Zagaria
Evelina Gori
Giulia Steigerwalt
Pawel Szadja
Valentine Pelka
Sasa Vulicevic
Massimo Sarchielli
Claudia Gerini

PG-13 - Parents
Strongly Cautioned.
Some material may
be inappropriate for
children under 13.







www.nitrateonline.com  Copyright © 1996-2005 by Nitrate Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.