UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN
(Audrey Wells, 2003)
Review by Lunacy, (c) 2004
Beware: Spoilers may be in the review
For those of you like myself who missed the movie UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN when it was at the theatres, I have one suggestion - RUN to your local library or Blockbuster and borrow this film. It is hands down one of the most delightful films of the last few years. Billed as a romantic-comedy, the story certainly includes its share of romance but at its core it's really about learning to love oneself, learning to love life, and learning to appreciate what one has in life. Based on the auto-biographical book by Frances Mayes, the film features Diane Lane in the title role as Frances - a writer who is left devastated and aimless after a divorce. Her best friend, Patti, a lesbian who had been planning a trip to Italy with her partner but has now decided not to go upon learning she's pregnant, gives Frances one of the tickets hoping the trip will lift her friend's spirits. Thus Frances ends up touring Italy on a bus with a group of gays and lesbians. The tour drives through a quaint little Italian town on the Tuscan countryside where Frances, despite her depression, finds herself charmed by the people and the location. Passing by the local real estate office, she sees an ad for the sale of an Italian villa nearby. Dismissing the thought that crosses her mind, she goes back to the tour bus and is sitting by the window as the tour meanders its way out of town when suddenly the bus goes by the villa that was on sale. This time Frances makes her decision. Abandoning the tour, she gets off the bus and goes into the rundown villa where she finds the previous owner about to make a sale. As fate would have it - Frances' appearance ruins that sale and then - despite her better judgement - Frances buys the place herself. In the weeks to come things will change drastically for Frances as she embarks on a renovation of the villa...and her life. With the help of a very sympathetic real estate agent and new friend, she hires four Polish immigrants to help with the renovations. The fact that they seem to know about as much as she does about construction and electrical work lead to some very amusing moments - but also a bond of friendship. The locals also embrace Frances - including a neighboring family who teach her about grape harvesting and a colorful, former actress who challenges Frances to stop being sad, stop thinking about what she doesn't have and just live life. As she predicts, it is precisely when Frances stops brooding that romance sneaks into her life once again. All the while, the challenges continue as her best friend shows up in Tuscany, 9 months pregnant and now suffering from a broken heart herself, and Frances finds herself championing the budding romance between one of her Polish workers and her neighbor's daughter. The road toward a happy life is never easy as Frances soon realizes when she has to deal with new disappointments but eventually the day come when she looks around and finds that in that villa under the Tuscan sun she's found friendships - old and new - she's found a family, she's found love, and ultimately - she's found herself again.
Diane Lane very deservingly was nominated for an Academy Award for the title role. She's joined by a wonderful supporting cast - including Sandra Oh in a hilarious performance as her best friend, Lindsay Duncan as the over-the-top former actress, popular Italian actor Raoul Bova as the handsome Italian who motivates Frances to - er - get her feet wet again as it were, Vincent Riotta as the sympathetic real estate agent, and four actors who are pretty much unknown in the US playing the contractors who almost steal the show. A movie that will leave you with a smile on your face, this one is a MUST WATCH!
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