Flicks & Folios – Film Review: Under The Tuscan Sun

Many of you may remember that I’m a student of the Italian language and so I am attracted to projects with the subject of Italy or some Italian in them. Well this film, Under the Tuscan Sun, looked like a hoot so I smiled nicely at the husband and he agreed to use a couple of our passes to go out to the film. He chooses one film, I chose ten. That’s the girl rule, isn’t it?!

Diane Lane, as Frances Mayes, is so good in this film she can be the sole recommendation for going to see it. She pulls off such a solid performance that many reviewers are whispering “Oscar nomination” already. I hope they’re right since I think she’s that good in this film.

The story begins at a book signing party where Frances is established as the author’s former writing instructor. He gushes about her help and how it led to his book, and then asks to French kiss her, but she proudly announces she’s happily married. Out of left field a man shows up and says that the book topic is ironic. Frances asks why. He says it’s about a guy who lives out his teenage fantasies, and why don’t you ask your husband? Ouch! One messy divorce later:

As it happens, Frances’ best buddy, Patti (Ontario actress Sandra Oh), and her gay partner are planning a lovely trip to Tuscany but the trip is cancelled when Sandra finds out she is finally pregnant. “Fifth time’s the charm,” announces her overly busy girl partner. So, they decide to cash in their two coach seats to buy Frances a first class ticket. Frances is touched, but is unwilling to part with her new digs.

Frances’ new apartment is in a building filled with the who’s who of the divorced and desperate. The guy next to her bawls his eyes out daily and if his crying bothers her too much she just slams the wall a few times! He’s a lawyer, giving out free advice to the other tenants. Also in there is a doctor who gives the disturbed people sleeping pill prescriptions. When the new landlord finds out that Frances is an author she says, “You can help people with their suicide notes.” Egad!

One day, shortly after dinner, the noise is too much and Frances calls up Patti to ask when she leaves. If it were me I’d find out they already gave the ticket to their other friend, but this is film.

On the “you’re Gay and Away” bus tour of Tuscany, Frances’ takes in the Tuscan countryside. It’s all breathtaking scenery now. So sit back and feel free to keep sighing. The sights include an amazing woman dressed like a film star – Lindsay Duncan as Katherine. She is breathtaking as she stands at the market and rubs a tiny little duckling all over her face, relishing its baby-soft down against her skin. Mmmm: Frances is taken in, and tries to follow the woman, but quickly loses her.

Instead, she comes upon a sign that shows a number of houses for sale in the area. One is called Bramasole and is simply illustrated with a drawing. She remembers the name, since the mysterious Katherine shows up and asks her if she’s going to buy it. We discover that this eccentric woman is English and had been discovered by Federico Fellini when she was 16.

Frances denies interest in buying the house gets back on the bus, but an unscheduled stop, courtesy of a flock of sheep, drops her right in front of the house in question. At first she is just stunned but she finally snaps out of it and says, “Stop the bus!” She hauls her luggage and the Gay and Away cap into the overgrown grounds and goes into the rundown house. There is a spigot on the wall that promptly gores her but won’t produce water. It is a pigeon occupied home with holes and extra guests (like black scorpions and a snake or two), but she takes the sign.

After the nasty people trying to buy the quaint house from under Frances leave, the Contessa (owner) decides no one can buy the house until a sign from God appears. Frances understands and believes in them too. Well along comes the sign courtesy of a pigeon letting lose on her face!! Ahem! Apparently this is a good sign in Italy and so she buys the house.

Finally, we get to her love interest in the project, played by Raoul Bova. They meet when Frances heads into town and is followed by some local guys. To chase them off, she grabs the nearest man and goes through the old “there you are!” routine. Her target turns out to be a hot heartthrob named Marcello. Marcello has some great lines and the scene on the beach between Diane and Raoul is worthy of the ticket price!

After a few tries trying to get together she finally pops in unannounced to Marcello’s. Oh crap! He isn’t alone. Is it all over for her and love? No. At a young couple’s wedding we find out an American author is visiting and when he stops by we know this is special. And it is.

Sure this film is a mushy chick flick but it’s also so scenic and funny that my hubby loved it. Judging by the reactions from others in this theater it was mutual.

Go see it and dream of Italy. I’m gonna go buy the book and see what it’s like. But, again, that’s another review.

Laura Seymour first published herself, at age 8. She has since gone on to publish a cookbook for the medical condition Candida. She is working toward her B.A. (Psyc).