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Overall Rating

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
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Stephen Groenewegen

1 stars

Under the Tuscan Sun is lifeless and shallow. Watching it is akin to being trapped inside a Home Beautiful magazine spread for two hours.

The book it’s based on, by Frances Mayes, is autobiographical. It’s about a San Franciscan writer and teacher who travels to Italy with her husband. They fall in love with the people, customs and food and, more specifically, a 300-year old villa at Cortona, Tuscany. They purchase it to live in six months of the year, hire Italian contractors and pitch in to help restoring the house and orchards.

The film is also about “Frances Mayes” (Diane Lane), a book reviewer from San Francisco whose husband cheats on her. After an ugly divorce, best friend Patti (Sandra Oh) sends her on a “Gay and Away” coach tour of Tuscany to stop her turning into a sad loser (Patti’s words, not mine). By chance, Mayes sees an ad for the villa, Bramasole, and apparently spends all her money from the divorce settlement buying it. I say apparently, because she seems to have a bottomless wallet when it comes to tasteful home furnishings. “Mayes” hires some zany foreign workers and, when she’s not moping around the house crying, condescends to help them occasionally while also learning to become a brilliant gourmet chef.

The real Mayes was a food and travel writer, as well as a poet and creative writing teacher, not just a cranky critic. All through the film, I kept wondering if Mayes had a lawsuit for defamation pending against Touchstone Pictures. According to a closing title, her book was “fictionalised for dramatic effect”; “gutted and Disneyfied for the lowest common denominator” comes closer to describing the handiwork of writer-director Audrey Wells (Guinevere, also writer of The Kid and George of the Jungle).

Among Wells’ additions are a hunky but untrustworthy Italian stud (Raoul Bova, struggling) and a truly unbearable subplot about two teenage lovers that makes Love Story look like Casablanca. There’s also a fey Englishwoman (Lindsay Duncan), Katherine, who seems to be the only local that “Mayes” befriends (I’m not counting the contractors she’s paid to work for her). Wells’ chief inspirations appear to have been Barbara Cartland, Mills & Boon and Hallmark cards. Katherine wears extravagant hats and eats ice cream to nurture her “childish innocence” and quotes homespun homilies attributed to “Fe-Fe” - that’s Federico Fellini to you and me (the Fellini estate, like Mayes, is advised to contact a good lawyer).

Diane Lane can’t decide if she’s a model in a shampoo commercial (all that hair tossing!) or the girlish heroine of a 1940s animated movie. She certainly talks cute to more animals than Snow White or even Dr Dolittle ever did. Sandra Oh looks distinctly uncomfortable playing the perky Asian pregnant lesbian sidekick, but hey, could anyone bring off a role like that?

The acting, writing, direction, Geoffrey Simpson’s postcard cinematography, Christophe Beck’s schmaltzy score, everything about this movie is lazy and slack, except the art direction. Production designer Stephen McCabe and his team of set decorators worked long and hard into the night to capture that air brushed glossy magazine look. Fabrics are thrown - just so! - over chair backs, books are artfully arranged and vases placed to capture every ray of golden sunlight.

Under the Tuscan Sun is a fairy tale for little girls approaching their fortieth birthday. There’s showers of rose petals, childbirth, fluffy kittens, hunky Italian men and a fantasy wedding - all that’s missing is a pony and a set of Barbie dolls. What must be most galling for Mayes, a real writer, is enduring some of the banal metaphors for her life that Wells has conjured up. When the stubbornly blocked tap gushes with water just as “Mayes” secures a pliant boyfriend, it took all my self-restraint not to run screaming from the theatre at the artless lack of subtlety.

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originally posted: 02/09/04 13:44:16
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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
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
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  26-Sep-2003 (PG-13)
  DVD: 03-Feb-2004



Directed by
  Audrey Wells

Written by
  Audrey Wells

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

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