Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Tuscany 101. Deleted scenes; Audio
commentary; Easter egg.
GIVEN the right material, Diane Lane can be quite an incendiary
actress (Rolling Stone once described her as a force of
nature), but even she struggles to pull Under The Tuscan
Sun out of the furnace.
Based on the best-seller by Frances Mayes, which sold two million
copies in the US and spent 126 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller
List, this is the type of film which gives chick flicks a bad
name, thanks to a tedious, often cringe-worthy script, and a lazy
tendency to reduce every character to some sort of caricature.
Lane plays freshly-divorced San Francisco writer, Frances Mayes,
who impulsively buys a rundown villa in deepest Tuscany in a desperate
bid to pick up the pieces of her shattered life.
Desperate, lonely and nervous of failure, she slowly begins to
build a new existence for herself, by rediscovering the pleasures
of laughter, friendship and romance, while getting to grips with
the pace and customs of Italian life.
But her path to happiness doesnt always take the expected
route and there is plenty of heartbreak along the way, thanks
in no small part to the amorous and flirty Italians surrounding
Although based on Mayes best-seller, which, in itself,
took the form of the writers own memoirs, Under The Tuscan
Sun has changed certain aspects of the story for dramatic
effect, especially as the novel itself contained none itself,
by the authors own admission.
Sadly, the ploy backfires, for many of the contrived scenarios
which unfold play out in such a cliched fashion that you have
to wonder whether writer-director, Audrey Wells, succumbed to
a little sun-stroke herself.
The film certainly looks great, containing plenty of breathtaking
views of Tuscany and the Neopolitan Riviera (most notably, Positano),
as well as numerous insights into Italian life and traditions,
but it is ultimately ill-served by the lame characterisation and
Lane does a credible job of portraying a woman who is struggling
to cope with the devastation caused by the revelation that her
husband has been having an affair with a younger woman, neatly
mixing the inevitable vulnerability this brings, with a feisty
determination to succeed.
But she is ill-served by a cliché ridden script, which
all-too frequently reduces many of the male characters to laughing
stocks, while serving to nullify the dramatic effect of proceedings.
This is a supposedly inspiring movie which lacks the feel-good
factor, and which comes packed with bad lines such as you
have beautiful eyes, Francesca, I wish I could swim inside them,
or, worse still, I am going to make love all over you,
before a supposedly erotic slice of sexual gratification.
The sight of Lane writhing around on a bed, alone, while praising
herself for still having it is likely to vex even
the most ardent fans of the actress, while attempts to play up
the sexual and physical insecurity she is supposed to be feeling
are negated by the directors decision to have virtually
every young male in Italy fawning over her at some point.
Of the support players, very few make any sort of impact against
the caricatures they are portraying, with Sandra Ohs pregnant
lesbian particularly ineffective, along with Lindsay Duncans
The men fare little better, with only Vincent Riotta, as Signor
Martini, providing an appealing confidante, despite limited material.
The remainder are a mostly embarrassing bunch, not worthy of much
appreciation, or, as it turns out, Lanes affection, all
of which makes Under The Tuscan Sun a film which is curiously
difficult to fall in love with.