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Overall Rating
2.29

Awesome: 3.45%
Worth A Look: 27.59%
Average: 9.2%
Pretty Bad: 13.79%
Total Crap45.98%

7 reviews, 45 user ratings


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Under the Tuscan Sun
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by Erik Childress

"Even Polacks Can't Outdo This Joke!"
1 stars

Did Unfaithful make that great an impression on people that we’re going to have to endure movies like this year after year? Not the kind of Zalman King wannabes where women discover the lost passion through sex with greasy Frenchmen, although the word “surrender” does come to mind. Were people not already conscious that Diane Lane was one of the most beautiful entities on planet Earth who also occasionally acts? A shout of thanks to everyone who overpraised that sexed-up European pretention-fest and got Lane an Oscar nomination. Because now she’s the rediscovered flavor of the month and she’s in a movie that is my exhibit M this year alone on why Gigli CAN’T be the worst film ever made.

Welcome to Frances Mayes’ life, successful book critic and literary teacher to boot. And in case you weren’t aware – she’s pretty damn hot for a 35-year old. (Lane is 38.) It’s pretty telling that a screenplay written by a woman goes through so much trouble to tell us something that’s fairly obvious to any male with an active libido (or who saw Lady Beware.) In case you are neither, you’re going to be reminded time and time again of this as in the first five minutes when a former student asks if he can French kiss her and another gentleman queries if she cooks in the nude. Ah, those American men are charmers.

One guy who must not share the same opinion is Frances’ husband who cheats on her and puts her through a rather painful divorce settlement. California being a no-fault state and all, Frances picks up and moves into a halfway house for divorcees where the walls are so thin, you can hear a doctor unconvincingly crying next door. Her lesbian friends decide she should get away and transfer their gay tour of Tuscany ticket into her name. We then travelogue our way into Italy and before the film turns into Boat Trip: The Drama, Frances hops off the bus of that plot thread and buys a little fix-‘er-up villa to settle in for the long haul.

No “woman discovering her lost soul through passion in a foreign land with some Aqua Velva stud” flick can be taken seriously if the intro turns to the old “bug falling down the shirt” (in this case, a scorpion) and embarrassingly disrobing in full view of others gag. Plus it was only four people and only a bra. Lighten up, Frances. This is a land where a bird crapping on your head is a good sign.

Cliches converge at this isle of the world,” Frances is told. And why not? This is a screenplay based on a travelogue memoir (by one Frances Mayes), which is kind of like taking Kramer’s coffee table book on coffee tables and optioning it for a movie. Audrey Wells’ screenplay is a half-cocked invention of events for dramatic purposes as the final credits tell us in detail. Frances narrates the film as if she’s educating us to some poetic discovery she made by learning how to pick olives. There are symbols of lost love, like the old man who keeps leaving flowers outside the villa and symbols of new love like the young couple kept apart by familial cultures. But so what? Without doing much with them, it’s best to leave symbols to the symbol-minded.

If the film wasn’t already a running joke by now, how novel is it for them to BRING IN THE POLACKS!!! Three of them no less. You get yourself a bar and a horse with a long face and you’ve got a party. Just don’t invite the woman it takes three reels to finally be identified as the “crazy blonde.” (Lindsay Duncan) The first time Frances sees her she’s rubbing a bird over her face in the fruit-loop section of the market. Since we all know that fowl facials are one of the six simple pleasures of living life to the fullest, we shouldn’t worry about her giving Frances advice. This character so frighteningly shows up when we don’t want her to that a colleague of mine swore she was going to turn out to be some kind of eminent doppelganger for Frances, which wouldn’t have been too surprising considering that Wells is also responsible for Bruce WillisThe Kid, where an adult male came face-to-face with his child self.

Oh yeah and in case you forgot, Frances is pretty damn gorgeous, and the only people she attracts are those she can easily turn down or those looking for a little action on the side of their regular relationship. The shaky Geoffrey Rush Polack keeps eyeballing her uncomfortably. A dinner guest flirts with her only to have his wife interrupt his progression and a motorbike guy makes a move after just giving her a ride. Her realtor, in a moment of consolation (and METAPHOR ALERT: snake searching) says if she doesn’t turn her frown upside down, he will be forced to make love to her. Pause. Wait for it. “And I’ve never been unfaithful to my wife.”

But that’s not even the piece de resistance of passages in the film. When Frances Meet Cutes the handsome Marcello (Raoul Bova), he charms her with the kind of line she says “American women expect Italian men to say to them.” When she comes back with offering to sleep with him, he says that’s exactly what “Italian men expect American women to say to them.” When making the less-awkward transition to the actual bedroom, he says “I’m going to make love all over you,” which we all know is what we expect porn stars to say to anyone. At least Richard Gere had the good sense to kill the guy making statements like that.

In a scene of post-coital ecstacy, Frances writhes around on her bed, grabs her breasts, grabs her crotch and practically molests the picture of the Virgin Mary she sleeps under. In what has to be one of the most awe-inspiring cuts since a monkey’s bone turned into a satellite, the very next image we have is of a cat licking up cream. And then...AND THEN...of a table full of nuns, with one resembling a money shot on her face. Anything Wells was trying to communicate through visions of recognizing signs and discovering enlightenment is pretty much accomplished with this sequence. I suppose its symbolic stature is one of flushing down your spiritual awakening for the taste of a high hard one, but I haven’t seen so much bogus spiritual posturing since The Magdalene Sisters.

Other than answering the age-old question of how many polacks does it take to get hit in the head with their own flag during a flag-twirling competition, Under the Tuscan Sun couldn’t find its way around a competent screenplay anymore than I could around Italy without a map. Diane Lane didn’t deserve this and we sure as hell didn’t either. It’s beyond “bad chick flick” territory and probably couldn’t have been improved if Christopher Walken showed up to play one of her suitors. Well, maybe. Between Le Divorce and this, films aren’t making their case that other countries have a greater respect for beauty than us ugly Americans do. Give me Diane Lane in the morning any day over any countless number of “hotties” in the evening. But the next time she chooses to make a film of this nature, let’s just pray that its “Rochelle, Rochelle”, a girl's strange erotic journey from Milan to Minsk.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=8160&reviewer=198
originally posted: 09/26/03 15:05:01
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User Comments

7/27/12 vicki swanson i was bitterly let down by it - a lot of hype that didnt deliver 2 stars
12/05/11 Pamela White Great chick flick with depth if only you look for it. 4 stars
4/04/10 RATING REVIEWER, NOT FILM The writer of this review has the wit and writing skills of a soggy shoe. 1 stars
7/18/09 Moose Unadulterated trash 1 stars
6/20/08 PAUL SHORTT THIN, LIGHTWEIGHT AND INSTANTLY DISPOSABLE 1 stars
10/22/07 cecile Perreault Very good movie Look at it 15 TimesCanada 4 stars
9/12/07 wendy absolutely loved the movie 5 stars
10/01/05 Ric Vans What Groenewegen said. Not total crap because Diane Lane is insanely hot. 2 stars
7/26/05 JOHN FLEMING Loved this movie. Predictable but satisfying. Sandra Oh was great. 4 stars
2/07/05 kumar being picture postcard is not a quality for a film, jeff anderson. sheeesh! 1 stars
2/01/05 Jeff Anderson A great looking, picture postcard of a film! DIANE LANE IS ONCE AGAIN A SEXY MARVEL & HOT!! 5 stars
12/01/04 Me Cute movie 4 stars
8/24/04 Juanita fuck under the tuscan sun 1 stars
5/23/04 Butterbean Tuscany looks refreshing. I like watching her renovating the house. Subplots were so-so. 4 stars
3/27/04 John Wayne Judging from the consensus here, it evidently takes much more life lived to laud this. 4 stars
3/26/04 bruce miller chick flick...I dont think so 4 stars
3/22/04 Claudette agree with your review 100% 1 stars
3/17/04 Chris I thought the whole movie was underpar. Lane was Ok but not great, it looked good though. 2 stars
3/16/04 Atanu God awful 1 stars
3/06/04 Jaco Visser Beautiful cinematography and scenery! Strong casting. Nice. 4 stars
3/02/04 Wendranh too long..action doesn't keep up 3 stars
2/25/04 Ben Cloutier Continuity doesn't matter when you have pretty pictures to make the viewers forget about it 1 stars
2/12/04 jj It's an interesting "life after divorce" type movie but nothing more. 3 stars
2/11/04 Marian Moore The worst film I've ever seen 1 stars
1/21/04 Betty White Gorgeous, but also laughless romantic comedy; Lane is appealing, but just not very funny. 2 stars
1/18/04 Deanna The book is a travelogue/cookbook, get it instead. 1 stars
1/09/04 Valerie Cameron Gruckin' foovy! A bitter divorcee buys a house because a pigeon shits on her! 2 stars
1/06/04 Wordfreak Great book, the movie...not about the book! This sucked! 1 stars
12/31/03 The Orca her other movies are better...this was not worth a tenth of the $3 I paid 1 stars
11/08/03 lou Well worth seeing. 4 stars
11/07/03 Cameron Slick Diane Lane and Tuscany are beautiful in this entertaining flick. 4 stars
10/27/03 Watcher of Shitty Movies The fluffiest piece of fluff that ever fluffed. 1 stars
10/27/03 marge Loved the scenery...want to go to Itlay...oddish plot 4 stars
10/26/03 john i love it to the max, wonderful scenery and romance..many uptight witches rating this 5 stars
10/26/03 Daniel Enjoyed the movie especially the scenery 4 stars
10/24/03 AAARRRGGHH Could I please have a towel for the estrogen I am drenched with? 1 stars
10/20/03 John Watching that period would be more entertaining than this. 1 stars
10/17/03 Stephanie McBrayer This movie was so bad! PLEASE read the book - - it's amazing! 1 stars
10/16/03 Popcorn Hunny If you have your period, it's raining outside, and you're bored, then this movie is for you 2 stars
10/13/03 Alice Whooeee it stinks. even braindead chicks should find it intolerable. 1 stars
10/11/03 Chrys It generated some damn good bitchy comments, thats something :) 1 stars
10/07/03 Johnny Hollywood crapfest with artificial situations resulting in everyone happy in the end. 1 stars
10/01/03 lycan nothing to see here folks, move along 1 stars
9/30/03 nutterbuts this movie is on some divine ya-ya pms bullshite, tuscans never liked ugly chicks anyways 1 stars
9/28/03 Kim Dowell An overacted pratfall and melodramatic facial gestures mess. 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  26-Sep-2003 (PG-13)
  DVD: 03-Feb-2004

UK
  N/A

Australia
  12-Feb-2004


Directed by
  Audrey Wells

Written by
  Audrey Wells

Cast
  Diane Lane
  Raoul Bova
  Sandra Oh
  Vincent Riotta
  Dan Bucatisnky
  Lindsay Duncan



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