35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
Way too much spare time,
This review is from: Up at the Villa [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
UP AT THE VILLA illustrates the mischief one can get into when burdened with too much spare time.
Mary Panton (Kristin Scott Thomas), a widowed Brit whose husband recently died after squandering their fortune, blast his eyes, is residing in 1939 Florence. Chamberlain has just sold the Czechs down the Vltava, Mussolini is getting uppity, and war appears likely. Panton lives UP AT THE VILLA, the owners of which, friends of Mary's, are away. Mary spends her idle time swanning about with fellow expats and contemplating the not entirely welcome offer of marriage recently tendered from the aging, but rich, Sir Edgar Swift (James Fox), who's expecting any moment to be named the new Governor of Bengal.
One evening, Panton attends a lavish dinner put on by her friend, the Princess San Fernando (Anne Bancroft), which comes off swimmingly except for a wretched example of entertainment for hire by a refugee Austrian musician, Karl Richter (Jeremy Davies). Later, Mary almost runs the man down with her car, and subsequently invites him back to the villa for a meal. Feeling sorry for the young fellow's miserable life, and wanting to show him a good time, she sleeps with him believing it'll be no more than a one time tryst. But, he returns the next night and forces himself upon her while professing his undying love. After Panton rejects his advances, Richter kills himself with a pistol given by Swift to Mary for her protection in these unsettled times. So now, what's a poor girl to do with an inconvenient corpse, especially as Sir Edgar is soon due back and anticipating her answer to his proposal?
UP AT THE VILLA isn't a bad film so much as just unengaging. Panton is so imprudent and so lacking any real purpose in life that it's hard to care what sort of predicament she gets herself into. The man who eventually bails her out, a rich and maritally unfaithful traveling Yank named Rowley Flint (Sean Penn), is equally undeserving of audience sympathy if for no other reason than the director didn't develop his character enough. Is he a cad or a knight in shining armor? The local cop investigating Richter's death, Beppino Leopardi (Massimo Ghini), could perhaps have achieved some viewer goodwill if it wasn't for his SS-like black uniform and his unswerving allegiance to Fascism. Richter starts out with a boyish appeal, but swiftly loses it. Except for the well-intentioned and honorable Swift, there's no one here to like, and stewing in their own juice probably serves them all right. For this fictional group of misfits, the war probably did a service by forcing them into something less frivolous - like survival.
If Panton calls me up offering a quick tumble, I might award more than three stars. I can be bought. Otherwise, UP AT THE VILLA has marginal merit.
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Initial post: 18 Sep 2012 22:16:33 BDT
Mrs. S. D. R. says:
Amusing comment. Sounds like a rubbish film but there's an Italian character actor I love in it and for that I'd buy the film.
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