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Under The Tuscan Sun

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Under The Tuscan Sun

Starring: Diane Lane, Raoul Bova
Director: Audrey Wells
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 113 Minutes
Release Date: September 2003
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance

*Also starring: Sandra Oh, Vincent Riotta, Dan Bucatinsky, Lindsay Duncan, Ralph Palka, Kristoffer Ryan Winters

Review by Harvey Karten
2½ stars out of 4

Any psychoanalyst will tell you that since happiness comes from within, if you try to find it by escaping to another place, you won't succeed because you always have yourself with you everywhere you go. But any psychoanalyst is wrong, at least according to Frances Mayes, who wrote the novel "Under the Tuscan Sun" and Audrey Wells who adapted the book to her screenplay and sat in the director's chair. If you don't believe everything you read in Ms. Mayes novel, you should be convinced by Diane Lane, who performs in the role of a writer who is dumped by her husband after a fairly long marriage, leaves her capacious San Francisco home to spend a few unhappy weeks in a transient apartment, and lands in the village of Cortino in Italy's sunny Tuscany region. Tuscany is one of the more popular resort areas of well-to-do Americans but few people states-side would elect to spend a lifetime there. Frances Mayes (Diane Lane) does, because she's tired of avoiding risks all her life. Her trip pays off. Or does it? We're left with an ending that happily does not neatly tie things up, while at the same time we in the audience not only wish her the best but given her looks and charming personality, we could hardly consider her an over-the-hill woman who has as much chance of finding a mate as she has of lightning striking her down.

There's a lot of cutesy stuff, syrupy dialogue, and unrealistic concepts here but Ms. Lane is so fetching that we'll suspend disbelief and go along with the sentiments. Her husband's a pig who is apparently carrying on an affair behind Frances's back (he's an idiot as well, given the woman to whom he's married), and even worse he's demanding alimony from her not just despite of the fact that she supported him for years but, under California law, because of that mistake. Paid off in cash for her half of the house, she joins a gay tour (don't ask) at the behest of her best friend, Patti (Sandra Oh), buys a villa with enough acreage to take two oxen a couple of days to plow the land, engages the services of an all-too-adorable team of contractors, and of course meets her prince in the form of the captivating Marcello (Raoul Bova).

Without the picture-postcard scenery, probably the best vistas ever shown to an American audience of Tuscany, the film would be pleasant enough, if formulaic. With the scenery, however, "Under the Tuscan Sun" pits the beauty of the region against the loveliness of Ms. Lane. The contest is a close one, and we don't mind if either competitor wins. The journey is everything and "Under the Tuscan Sun" proves the adage that Italians, unlike Americans, know how to have fun.

Copyright 2003 Harvey Karten

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