Customer Review

19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Looking for ladybugs, 31 July 2004
This review is from: Under Tuscan Sun [DVD] [2004] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN, based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Frances Mayes, is one of those fantasies of escape likely to appeal to those leading lives of quiet desperation.
Diane Lane plays Frances, who's just undergone a bitter divorce made more insulting by the fact that ex-hubbie buys out her share of the house using money supplied by his new woman. Frances moves into an apartment block that specializes in sheltering the recently divorced. The lawyer next door sobs a lot. Then, two of Frances's lesbian friends gift her with a ticket for a tour of Tuscany. So, off she goes, ultimately to impulsively purchase a run-down villa in the hill town of Cortona. Mayes spends the rest of the story overseeing the restoration of her new digs by a local contractor employing three expatriate Poles, and searching for a new lease on Love.
My wife liked this film more than I, but admitted it's a chick flick. I'm giving it four stars chiefly because both Diane Lane and the Italian locations are gorgeous. The whole point of the film is to get the demoralized Frances to the point where she can again say, "I'm emotionally OK and ready to boogie." A disclaimer in the ending credits states that some characters were altered to enhance the dramatic action. Perhaps buffed up too much in some cases, and not enough in others.
For me, the film would have been a much better story had it focused on Frances, the villa's reconstruction, and the engaging personalities of the Poles (Pawel Szajda, Valentine Pelka, and Sasa Vulicevic), and created a relationship with her helpful real estate agent, the sensitive and maturely handsome Martini (Vincent Riotta). However, the screenwriters have Frances involved in too many other subplots requiring an excess of supporting players. There's Katherine (Lindsay Duncan), a flamboyant ex-actress and Fellini protege, who's only purpose in the storyline seems to be to dance in a fountain and advise on how to find men, in this case equated with ladybugs - essentially, "lie down in the grass and let them come to you". Then there's gay pal Patti (Sandra Oh), who shows up to have a baby. And hunky Marcello (Raoul Bova), straight off the lurid cover of some bodice-ripper, who admittedly goes a long way in restoring Mayes's sexual self-esteem. (My wife thought Marcello totally necessary to the plot.) Indeed, one of the best scenes has Mayes doing a private victory dance to celebrate the fact that she's still "got it."
Diane Lane's last outing (UNFAITHFUL) garnered her a well-deserved Oscar nomination. Her role in UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN is nowhere near to being as accomplished a performance. But for this viewer, who's been in love with Ms. Lane since her appearance in 1989's LONESOME DOVE as the sweetly vulnerable prostitute Lorena, it more than sufficed as an endorphin fix.
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