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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 Rob Gonsalves

"Frothy, charming vehicle for Diane Lane."
4 stars

Charlie Kaufman must be burning with envy of Audrey Wells, who in 'Under the Tuscan Sun' has achieved what Kaufman tried to do with 'The Orchid Thief' (i.e., turn a highly readable but unfilmable book into a movie -- Kaufman ended up writing a movie about not being able to write the movie).

Wells has taken Frances Mayes' nonfiction bestseller and cheerfully fictionalized it, keeping only the basic idea (woman oversees the reconstruction of an Italian villa) and the title. Fans of the book might not be pleased with the results, though the movie is charming enough to lure non-readers to Mayes' far different narrative -- as long as they're not expecting a tale of a divorcee, her Italian lover, and her sarcastic pregnant lesbian friend.

Fans of Diane Lane, on the other hand, should be happy with what amounts to a glowing vehicle for her. She plays Frances as a somewhat bewildered, overwhelmed woman who doesn't mind being overwhelmed sometimes. When she first enters what will become her villa in Tuscany and a flock of pigeons flap loudly across her path, she is startled into laughter, not fear. Life has thrown Frances a curveball -- her husband has dumped her for another woman -- and when given the opportunity to take a free tour of Tuscany (courtesy of gay friend Patti, played with considerable wit by Sandra Oh), she almost passes it up. But she eventually gives in, and falls in love with a villa she hasn't even seen from the inside yet. As she puts it, "I can't go back to San Francisco." She'd rather take on a Tuscan money pit in a place where she doesn't know anyone (or the language) than go back "home" in defeat.

So the story, as reconceived by Wells, becomes about how Frances repairs herself as well as the villa. She does eventually make friends who pull her out of herself, including the free-spirited Katherine (Lindsay Duncan), who says she was once cast in a Fellini film as a little girl. Not by accident does the movie evoke Fellini and not, say, Antonioni (heck, Frances' life back in Frisco would've been the Antonioni film). Tuscany is romanticized as a simpler, magical place where a splatter of bird poop on one's head is taken as a good sign. It's all very fluffy, but this is good-hearted and great-looking fluff, photographed on location (by Geoffrey Simpson) to bring out Tuscany's ancient beguiling wonders.

There's a love story, of course. Frances falls for the hunky Marcello (Raoul Bova); he's married, but then so was her husband, and Frances may go into the affair as much out of spite towards her ex as out of passion. She doesn't recognize, naturally, that she has become the "other woman" who once stole her own husband away; as in Unfaithful, Lane shows us all the goofy and hot-blooded emotions involved in sex, though I hope she doesn't become typecast as Woman Who Has Flings Against Her Better Judgment. In any event, the way Lane plays these affairs, we may doubt her judgment but we never begrudge it. The giddy little dance she does after her first sacktime with Marcello proves her innate ability to win our empathy; here's hoping she never uses this power for evil.

Under the Tuscan Sun is of the "everyone goes home happy" school of romantic comedies. That's what it's built to do, and Audrey Wells, who has shown a taste for more dramatic work (Guinevere, her only previous directorial outing, from 1999) as well as lighter fare (such as The Truth About Cats and Dogs and Shall We Dance?), does what she sets out to do. She remains one of the better dialogue carpenters in the business, too; an early scene with Jeffrey Tambor as Frances' attorney vibrates with what isn't said, and we are grateful to Wells for having faith in our intelligence -- we figure things out along with Frances. That's also true of the final shot, which sums up the whole restoration theme of the movie without calling undue attention to itself.

'Under the Tuscan Sun' will please people who aren't ordinarily pleased at the movies these days -- older folks uninterested in gun-toting vampires or wrestlers moonlighting as actors -- and it earns their pleasure.

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originally posted: 01/11/07 07:39:53
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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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