Critics were decidedly mixed about Stealing Beauty
, a 1996 drama from Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci, and the movie enjoyed only a brief theatrical release. Now it's best known for its early appearance by Liv Tyler as a 19-year-old beauty named Lucy who spends the summer at a villa in Tuscany with a variety of artistic types who immediately respond to her inspirational innocence.
An amateur poet who has decided it's time to lose her virginity, Lucy has come to Italy after the death of her mother, who visited this artist's refuge 20 years earlier. Several young Italian men find Lucy quite heavenly (she is, after all, Liv Tyler), and she's not immune to their attentions, but she'd rather spend time with a playwright (Jeremy Irons) who is dying of AIDS and therefore has something other than sex on his mind.
The film's plot is about as substantial as Tyler's character (she's sexy, all right, but hardly an intellectual muse), but Stealing Beauty creates a serene mood that's so soothing you'll want to book a flight to Tuscany immediately, just to soak up the idyllic atmosphere. If you're in the right frame of mind, this film is like a balm for the soul, and Tyler and Bertolucci can share the credit for making this two-hour holiday so charmingly relaxing. --Jeff Shannon, Amazon.com
The complicated lovelife of her late, bohemian mother leaves 19-year-old Lucy Harmon (Liv Tyler) unsure of the true identity of her father. An answer to the mystery offers itself when she is sent to a Siennese villa to have her portrait done by an old family friend, Ian Grayson (Donal McCann). Houseguests, local villagers and family members alike fall for the American teenager's innocent charms as she acquaints herself with the landscape in which she had been conceived.