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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Should we change our lives because some idiot wants war?"
Directed by Franco Zeffirelli, who also wrote the screenplay with John Mortimer, this (1999) semi-autobiographical tale revolves around an illegitimate Italian child named Luca, whose wealthy father provides financial support but otherwise ignores him. Taken under the wing of Mary Wallace (Joan Plowright), one of a group of British women who have remained in Italy during...
Published on 22 Sept. 2004 by Mary Whipple

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unfocussed
As mentioned elsewhere, the cast is excellent, the acting impeccable and I was interested to see that the script was written by John Mortimer, creator of Rumpole. I also agree that the story is unfocussed and vaguely unsatisfying - it tries to tell several stories at once and no one character stands out.
I suspect it will need a couple more viewings before it becomes...
Published 19 months ago by Amos Spitalhatch


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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Should we change our lives because some idiot wants war?", 22 Sept. 2004
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Directed by Franco Zeffirelli, who also wrote the screenplay with John Mortimer, this (1999) semi-autobiographical tale revolves around an illegitimate Italian child named Luca, whose wealthy father provides financial support but otherwise ignores him. Taken under the wing of Mary Wallace (Joan Plowright), one of a group of British women who have remained in Italy during the rule of Mussolini, he learns English and enjoys the only stability he has ever known. When Italy allies itself with Germany, his father sends him off to school in Germany, but Luca remains close to "Miss Mary."
Lady Hester Random (Maggie Smith), artist Arabella (Judi Dench), and several other expatriots, are all in Mary Wallace's very British social circle. Under Lady Hester's direction, they are insulated, self-satisfied, and exclusive, and regard people like Elsa Morganthau-Strauss, an American parvenu and art-collector (Cher), as beneath them. She mockingly refers to them as the "scorpioni," an opinion shared by Georgie, an American archaeologist (Lily Tomlin). When the fascists threaten their lifestyle, Lady Hester, widow of the former ambassador, has tea with Mussolini, who promises to look after her and her friends personally. When war breaks out, however, promises are broken, and it is up to Luca, back from Germany, to try to help.
The level of irony is suggested in the title, as the "scorpioni" refuse to believe that Mussolini's "ungentlemanly" behavior could possibly affect them. Zeffirelli, alternates semi-serious scenes with extravagant, absurd scenes, much like the comic relief of the Shakespearean plays he has also directed, and he casts the film so that each of his stars plays to type--Maggie Smith as the hopelessly snobby aristocrat, Judi Dench as a fey and flighty artiste, Joan Plowright as the sweet and thoughtful grandmotherly sort, Cher as the most extravagant and crass American ever filmed, and Lily Tomlin as the no-nonsense realist who enjoys sticking pins into those who puff themselves up. The roles do not call for subtlety or originality, but it is great fun to watch these screen legends having fun here.
The gorgeous scenery, art, and architecture of Tuscany are well filmed by David Watkin, and the tone of the film remains light, focusing on the women and Luca almost exclusively. A satiric tale poking fun at everything from American crassness and British class-consciousness to the absurdities of Mussolini's pretentions, the film virtually ignores fascism's serious realities for the sake of the story line and its humor. Mary Whipple
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Film making at its best!, 27 Dec. 2001
By A Customer
Set in Florence in the 1930s and 1940s - in a haven for English 'gentility' where tea is served at 4 o'clock precisely each tranquil afternoon.
A declaration of war is a mere detail since securing the 'word' of Il Duce that their safety was in his personal guarantee at a tea party so magnanimously hosted by the man himself.
How could the word of such a nice man be doubted since, after all, he made the trains run on time, didn't he!
With the grim reminders of war reverberating in their ears, how were they to prevail?
This moving and compassionate film is studded with marvelous one-liners from Maggie Smith aimed mainly at Cher's character who shares the limelight equally with a powerful cast, including Jean Plowright and Dame Judy Dench.
A 'must see' movie, no question.
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65 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An entirely lovely film, 28 Dec. 2006
By 
J. Hutchings "jjhutchings" (Framlingham, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I caught this film a few years ago on Channel 4 (in England), and was quite taken with its story telling. One cannot but notice the stellar cast - Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Joan Plowright, Lily Tomlin and, believe it or not, Cher. They, however, do not dominate the film, nor does it become a case of watching actors trying to out-act each other. Much more, each plays a gracious part to the other, allowing the story to come through.

The cinematography is excellent, with San Gimignano and Florence caught beautifully. The music score is supportive and well-written without drowning the scenes in emotion.

All in all, the film comes across as very 'English' (or rather, what 'English' once was) - balanced, gracious, never too much and always polite. If anything, the film is worth £7 just for Maggie Smith's line at the end.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tea with Mussolini, 16 Jun. 2004
By A Customer
An underlying serious drama produced in a clever humorous style, with a superb acting cast,creating maximum impact and food for thought. I look forward to seeing the film again.
For the student of the language, the Italian, when spoken, was great along with the vernacular and other colloquial expressions. The sub-titles were pretty good!
I am buying this video as a gift for my very mature Italian professoressa, who did live through some of the times depicted and hails from the region.
It is a pleasure to see the beautiful countryside and revisit San Giminagno.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tea English Style!, 6 Nov. 2010
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Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright and Cher, make for superb viewing in this delicious film of love and friendship. Set in Florence in 1937, these English woman have lived in Florence several years and see it as their home. They rally around Luca a young boy born of a now deceased English seamstress and an arrogant Italian father who rejects Luca. These women teach him to love art, literature and history. But there is dark side when the women are forced to leave Florence and are horded into a derelict hotel when Italy goes to war with Hilter. Maggie Smith is funny and stoically British and stands her ground when she has tea with Mussolini at his palace. A wonderful story and great viewing. I've watched it several times since I purchased it because it is such a lovely story.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As my late husband, the ambassador would have said: splendid entertainment, 4 Oct. 2007
By 
Amelrode (Vilvoorde) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
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Semi-autobiographical tale from the early life of director Franco Zeffirelli looks at the illegitimate son of an Italian businessman. The boy's mother has died, and he is raised by an Englishwoman (Joan Plowright) in pre-WWII Fascist Italy. Living to each other in Florence, and presided over by an ambassador's widow (Maggie Smith), a group of Englishwomen live a sheltered existence which they believe is guaranteed personal protection in a tea reception given by Il Duce. However, as war breaks out, the women are interned. Occasionally in this English colony is a wealthy American (Cher), who visits among her travels and marriages to wealthy older men. She respects the "Scorpioni", as they are known, and secretly arranges for their stay in a hotel. When the United States enters the war, the American too is taken into custody. Only then does she discover that her Italian lover has tricked her into signing over all her money and modern art collection to him, and is now arranging her execution. This obliges all to join forces.

Tea With Mussolini is great entertainment. It is maybe not the great film so many had thought it would be, but with a true story, great casting and performances, and an interesting setting and time it is highly enjoyable. The female cast was fantastic. In particular Maggie Smith as Lady Hester, the crusty, sharp tongued wife of the former ambassador, Joan Plowright as the sweet but strong grandmotherly type and Julie Dench as the "arty" one. Cher as the brash, nouveau riche American was well cast. The men in general cannot match the female cast. The only objection I have that the characters might be a bit too stereotyped: the film perpetuates the idea of British as tea-drinking stiff upper lippers, Americans as rich, brash, everything is buying but in the end good at heart. Well all in good fun.

I enjoyed every minute of it!
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tea With Mussolini or Tea with 007, 27 Mar. 2007
By 
Rob S "Rob S" (Conwy, North Wales) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
My wife insisted we watch this, I refused and made her watch Casino Royale, but I gave in next time and watched this and I really enjoyed it. I guess even more than the 007 film.

Set during the war in Florence with a group of stubborn older ladies who think Mussolini will protect them during the German occupation, but will he?

A good film to enjoy during a lazy Sunday afternoon, just don't tell my wife I preferred this to Casino Royale.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetic, moving, excellently directed and played, 17 Mar. 2000
I am simply too grateful Master Franco Zeffirelli could make this autobiographical film, so charged with true emotions, the emotions of a young kid left by his parents, and the troubles of a teenager during World War II and Nazi occupation of Italy. The English community living in Florence is a tribute Zeffirelli pays to all the English who love Tuscany and Italy and his own personal tribute for making him love England so much. It is a truthful, emotional connotated, moving, delighful and fresh film.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lots of charm, 20 July 2011
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I really love this film and all those in it. Joan Plowright is perfection. A story with a happy end, beautifully produced with great sensitivity and humour, and it is a true story. Its a film unlike any other I have seen. Perhaps it is because I am an old person too that I enjoy it so much - I did lend it to a young french couple who tell me honestly what they think, and they enjoyed it too. What more can I say.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a wonderful film!, 29 Nov. 2009
Superlative performances from an outstanding cast, stunning settings, (San Gimignano in particular) and a charming storyline. What more can one say but superb, enchanting, marvellous, delightful!
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Tea With Mussolini [DVD]
Tea With Mussolini [DVD] by Franco Zeffirelli (DVD - 2006)
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