An American writer (Diane Lane) decides to radically change her life when she buys an Italian villa on a whim while on vacation.
Directed by: Audrey Wells
Under the Tuscan Sun is supposed to be a comedic drama about finding yourself when life throws you a curveball. Instead, it’s a cautionary tale about about an impulsive, irrational woman who makes her problems worse, and eventually decides that true happiness is learning to give up and settle for what you have.
Fans of this film, and the book it is based on, will probably strongly disgree, but I found myself continually annoyed and frustrated by Frances, the lead character played by Diane Lane. Even worse, her character is based on Frances Mayes, who wrote Under the Tuscan Sun based on her real-life experiences. Watching this film, I get the feeling Frances is the type of woman who would wait until there are two minutes left in the football game to stand in front of the TV and tell you “We need to talk.” And it is not because she is wicked, but because she is so absorbed in her problems that she is oblivious to everyone else.
I tried to get into this film, but the filmmakers made it SO HARD. Frances is not the most likeable woman. Sure, she has plenty of wrongs dumped on her, but she never acts the way a real person would. That’s too bad, because Diane Lane is a wonderful actress, and ALMOST pulls this off. Unfortunately, at nearly every turn of the plot, Frances makes another dumb decision or acts in a way that made me throw up my arms in frustration. Real people don’t act like this. If the real Frances actually did, that is a scary thing.
Listening to the audio commentary and watching the behind-the-scenes extras, we learn that much of the film’s characters and plot points were fabricated. The only true item is that a woman named Frances bought a villa in Tuscany. That makes the annoying story director Audrey Wells crafted around this idea that much more of a crime. We didn’t have to endure it.
If this is supposed to be some sort of empowering story for women, I missed all of the cues identifying it as such. Frances comes across less like a strong, smart woman and more like an impulsive idiot. She claims she won’t fall in love, yet plays with fire by getting too close to a married man, who repeatedly talks about how much he loves his wife. Hello?
Eventually, Frances does meet someone, but instead of acting like a woman in an adult relationship, she acts like a teenager who just saw Twilight. It makes no sense, and betrays the essense of the character.
The poor character development of Frances undermines what could have been a good film. The supporting cast (at least in the Italy scenes) were very good, and the film is beautifully shot. There are some moments in this film that shine, and connect emotionally. However, they are short-lived and undone by the next scene. Under the Tuscan Sun is one of those films that strikes you as something that should have been much better, but falls short of its promise.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
The video image is strong, even if it shows some film grain. With 99% of the movie filmed in Tuscany, we ar etreated to some wonderful scenic Italian countryside vistas, and it looks fantastic in high definition. Colors pop, especially the reds, which are in abundance. I never realized Italians were so lively. We also get some great shots of towns on the Italian coast, which actually make the film more enjoyable, even if the story does not. Audio is 5.1 DTS-HD, and it sounds great, no major issues there.
The special features are actually quite interesting, led off with the “Tuscany 101” featurette, that provides some nice behind-the-scenes information on the film’s production in Italy. A handful of deleted scenes are good, adding a little to the picture’s story.
The audio commentary by writer/director Audrey Wells is actually quite listenable. She provides some good insight into the making of the film and some worthwhile anecdotes.
THE BOTTOM LINE: BUY IT OR REDBOX IT?
Ratings (1-10 scale)
Overall Grade: 7
Under the Tuscan Sun may be appealing to some, but I found it to be more tedious than endearing. Diane Lane is a fine actress, but she needed a better script, especially one with a point. That said, the video and audio are good and the extras are entertaining. Even so, the movie isn’t nearly good enough to warrant a rent.
Release Date: July 3, 2012
Running Time: 113 minutes
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, French, Spanish
Special Features: “Tuscany 101” featurette, Deleted Scenes.
Audio Commentary: By director Audrey Wells