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Overall Rating
3.23

Awesome: 13.95%
Worth A Look: 18.6%
Average44.19%
Pretty Bad: 23.26%
Total Crap: 0%

3 reviews, 25 user ratings


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Tea With Mussolini
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by Stephen Groenewegen

"Zeffirelli's genteel war fable is misconceived."
2 stars

The latest film by Franco Zeffirelli is an attempt at a Life is Beautiful-like war-time fable. It falls completely flat.

Tea with Mussolini begins in 1935 Florence, in an artistic colony of English women led by the austere Lady Hester (Maggie Smith). The group also includes a fey artist (Judi Dench) and Mary Wallace (Joan Plowright). Wallace is the guardian of a young Italian boy, Luca, neglected by his father. On the fringes of the group are a couple of Americans - a lesbian archaeologist (Lily Tomlin) and wealthy socialite art collector Elsa (Cher). As Mussoliniís hold on power tightens, and Italy enters the war, these steadfastly British women become enemy aliens and no longer welcome in Florence.

Paradise Road this ainít. Zeffirelliís light approach to this serious material (including the rise of fascism and anti-semitism), only succeeds in trivialising it. The resistance
movement is just a game here, and no one is ever in any real danger. The upper crust Brits and their obsessive tea drinking is only mildly satirised, and the film is riddled with shameless stereotypes - vulgar Americans with hearts of gold and excitable,
treacherous Italians. Zeffirelli wrote the screenplay with John Mortimer and itís apparently autobiographical - he is the boy Luca who is raised by English women, sent away to Austria and returns as a youth to join the resistance and do his best to
free the women. But the real life elements do not give the film focus, especially as the actor who plays Luca is intimidated by the more experienced actors around him, and vanishes for the greater part of the movie.

The music score is intrusive, the distinguished cast are all unexceptional (they probably signed on for the holiday in Tuscan Italy) and the script is riddled with cliched guff about true love lasting forever. This film only has David Watkin's pretty cinematography in its favour. Its division into a comic half set before the war, and a more serious half during it, is reminiscent of Life is Beautiful. But Tea with Mussolini glosses over the tragic aspects of its tale and lacks the resonance of Life is Beautiful.

Here, the biggest tragedy is the waste of talent on such insipid material.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=1468&reviewer=104
originally posted: 06/06/99 17:40:31
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/06/07 martina i love the movie it gives us set back to history great acting by all these people 5 stars
6/11/03 Shadaan Felfeli Room with a viewish . Slow . Yet i enjoyed watching it through once. 4 stars
7/27/02 I Can't Swim Small epic w/a distaff cast has more going for it than you might think 5 stars
4/02/02 Steve Mackey Pleasant film featuring the grand old ladies of the screen. 3 stars
4/01/02 R.W. Welch Clueless expatriates muddle through WWII in Italy; nicely done. 4 stars
1/20/02 Andrew Carden Unfunny and Bland Movie. Can't Tell Whether It's A Drama or Comedy. 2 stars
12/03/01 Hum pleasant but could have been much more 3 stars
12/02/01 Mike Russell The whole cast is flawless, especially Cher! Great film!!! 5 stars
8/01/00 Elvisfan You're all bananas, it was terrific 5 stars
1/09/00 Linda Bryan Historic settings, funky expatriots in Italy, courage & responsibility 4 stars
12/04/99 Peter T no challenge, but a pleasant escape 3 stars
12/01/99 Karen Nice to look at until you fall asleep. 3 stars
11/02/99 libby funny and beautiful 4 stars
9/23/99 Robert H A completely implausible load of genteel claptrap...Enough to make one side with Fascists 2 stars
7/31/99 Geoff F. Bit of a wank 2 stars
7/25/99 David Stein Maggie Smith has never played a truthful moment in her whole hammy career 3 stars
7/22/99 Suzz good story and performances; laugh out loud funny 4 stars
7/19/99 Joe Smaltz A good movie, somewhat of a cross between a Neil Simon and Sienfield. A basically true sto 4 stars
7/18/99 Hoku Although the script was a little off, the movie as a whole was interesting and full of good 4 stars
6/27/99 kate c. it was wonderful 5 stars
6/15/99 David The grand old dames of acting make this entertaining, but it's oh so empty. 3 stars
6/07/99 Janet Acting--good; Plot--stunk! I kept waiting for the point of this flick 2 stars
5/28/99 pipeman Great flick. Beautifully done. A bit sappy, but wonderful. 5 stars
5/17/99 Mr Showbiz This occasionally corny, irresistably charming comedy is bristling with acting talent. 4 stars
5/10/99 Popcorn Never really convinces as a drama, but it's easy to watch. 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  14-May-1999 (PG)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  05-Aug-1999 (PG)


Directed by
  Franco Zeffirelli

Written by
  John Mortimer

Cast
  Cher
  Charlie Lucas
  Maggie Smith
  Claudio Spadaro
  Lily Tomlin



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