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Under the Tuscan Sun

Starring Diane Lane
Screen story and screenplay by Audrey Wells
Based on the book by Frances Mayes
Directed by Audrey Wells

IN SHORT: A dead-on dateflick... [Rated PG-13 for sexual content and language.]

. . . remembering, of course, that our definition of the usual dateflick is one which will thrill half the couple and leave the other wishing and hoping and praying for death (or, at minimum, that the end credits would hurry up and roll). More precisely, Under the Tuscan Sun is going to be a monster of a chick flick -- which is pretty much all the male readers in our audience need to know. Grin and bear it, dudes, sitting through movies of this genre is part of the price (we) pay for relationships.

Most chick flicks save the heavy duty tragedy for the end game, intending to leave not a dry eye in the house. Under the Tuscan Sun gets that drama out of the way in the first ten minutes as the most lovely Frances (Diane Lane) finds her world in pieces when her husband dumps her for a trophy bimbo of child bearing age. Not only does Frances, a book reviewer and writer, lose the hubby, that louse also has a legal claim on almost all of her assets. We'll skip how she manages to come out of the situation with a pile of cash -- emotional humiliation being part of the story and genre, we wouldn't want to spoil that -- but she does OK and spends her next birthday with her best lesbian friends.

Patti (Sandra Oh) and her partner 'too insignificant to mention' have their own biological impossibility to celebrate and pass their planned vacation tour of Tuscany to her because travel and pregnancy don't mix. Don't think of bringing kids too young to have the fine points of artificial insemination and personal sexual preferences adequately explained. Continuing that line, the vacation tour is called "Gay and Away" and our star is the sole breeder on the bus. During the tour a series of small events, group 'em together and they spell Destiny, compel Frances to buy a rundown manor and settle in to the country life.

Convinced that she will never know Love again, Frances wants to be alone, distracted by the details of restoring the house. She knows little about construction and the contractor (local) and his helpers (Polish immigrants) know less. As well, Frances slowly begins to make some connections among the locals. Prominent among these is Katherine (Lindsay Duncan) a flighty actress for the legendary director Frederico Fellini, whose hedonistic lifestyle would be the talk of any small town, and Chiara (Giulia Steigerwalt), the daughter of the land owner who is deep into a forbidden relationship with one of the workers, Pawel (Pawel Szadja). A side trip to Rome, and a sequence that could either be a potential mugging or a chase involving over-appreciative horny Italian men, sends Frances into the arms of the soon to be love of her life Marcello (Raoul Bova).

Many of our hero's observations are voice-over'd in letters back to Patti, and these casual words are where the film goes off the track for this critical observer. Writer/ director Audrey Wells' timeline makes no sense to the film's continuity. Frances' early letters, as the scenes flash by, comment about her first year in Italy when she's only been there a matter of weeks or a couple of months. By the time a still pregnant Patti shows up to kick off the third act, we figured it should have been baby number two but it's not. By then, the line in the sand had been drawn. Across the board, all the women in our audience were laughing at all the jokes and have a great time watching a film whose cinematography of the local landscape is postcard perfect.

The whole project is best described as "fluffy." See paragraph one. Scan the Cranky Critic® StarTalk with Diane Lane for more.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Under the Tuscan Sun, he would have paid . . .


dateflick level.

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