out of Five
Running time: 112
Part Shirley Valentine, part Changing Rooms and part Wish You Were Here, Under the Tuscan Sun is lovely to look at and has good performances, but is let down by a pedestrian script.
Under the Tuscan Sun would dearly like to be a sort of American style Shirley Valentine for the noughties (or whatever we’re calling the 00s). Unfortunately, it joins the ranks of films such as Captain Corelli’s Mandolin or Chocolat, in that it’s lovely to look at but not actually all that good, despite good performances all round.
Based On The Memoir…
The film is based on the memoir by Frances Mayes. Diane Lane plays Frances, a writer whose life falls apart after she discovers her husband’s infidelity. To cheer her up, her pregnant lesbian best friend (Sandra Oh) sends her on a ten day Gay Coach Tour of Tuscany. While wandering around, she discovers a gorgeous villa for sale and, impulsively, buys it, intending to renovate it because it’s, like, a metaphor for her life or something.
At any rate, she soon becomes involved in the lives of the locals and also finds herself falling for one of those good-looking bastard types (Raoul Bova) who might as well be wearing a t-shirt that says, “Don’t trust me”.
The main problem with the film is that the script lacks imagination or a spark of any kind. In addition, the romantic scenes don’t ring true and the dialogue is frequently laughably bad, such as when Bova tells Frances: “I’m going to make love all over you”.
Fails To Hit Emotional Target
Diane Lane is an extremely likeable actress and it’s largely thanks to her that the film remains watchable. There’s also decent comic support from both Sandra Oh and Lindsay Duncan as an eccentric, Fellini-obsessed local ex-pat who takes Frances under her wing – her recreation of Anita Ekberg’s walk in the fountain is one of the film’s few high-points. Vincent Riotta is also good as the estate agent who sells Frances the house and becomes her friend.
Admittedly, the scenery is fantastic and is bound to do no harm at all to the Tuscan Tourist Board, but the film never really hits its emotional targets and the main feeling it’s likely to induce is a desire to see Shirley Valentine again.
In short, this is watchable and gorgeous to look at, but instantly
forgettable unless you’re stuck for ideas for where to go on holiday this year.