UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN
Audrey Wells


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Touchstone Pictures, September 2003
Starring: Diane Lane, Raoul Bova, Sandra Oh, Vincent Riotta
Reviewed by Barbara Fielding

"Under the Tuscan Sun" is the film adaptation of Frances Mayes’ best-selling non-fiction, travel memoir. Writer/director Audrey Wells fictionalized Frances Mayes' story into an upbeat tale of self-discovery and emotional healing.

Novelist and book reviewer, Frances Mayes' (Diane Lane) marriage starts to unravel when she comes face to face, at a San Francisco book signing, with a vengeful author whose book she hated. The scorned writer seizes the opportunity to publicly humiliate her by informing her of her husband's extramarital affair. The subsequent divorce and post-divorce depression prompts her closest friend Patti (Sandra Oh) to send her on a vacation for emotional rejuvenation to Tuscany.

Frances isn't in any mood for a romantic connection and the gay tour group, "Gay and Away" is just the comic relief she needs. But Frances can't seem to fit in with the group, and takes little pleasure in the sights, until she spots a "For Sale" advertisement for an Italian villa on a tour stop. The villa is called Bramasole,
bramare, to yearn for, and sole, the sun. Frances falls in love with the villa and leaves the tour to impulsively buy the ramshackle estate. The villa comes to represent all her tarnished dreams and losses. As she restores the villa's beauty she slowly rediscovers her own lost direction.

The new lovers, friends and neighbors Frances gathers along the way include a handsome European antique dealer, Marcello (Raoul Bova), a charming and happily married Realtor, Signor Martini (Vincent Riotta) and a beautiful aging film star, Katherine (Lindsay Duncan). The wonderful supporting characters give the Tuscan setting a lively, comic appeal.

Diane Lane's portrayal of a betrayed spouse was carried off with just the right mix of sadness and humor. Her dramatization of the loneliness and depression wasn't overplayed but expressed through soulful moments and sadly humorous experiences. One of my favorite scenes was the happy dance she does when, after one night with a new lover, Frances rediscovers her sexual appeal.

The Tuscan scenery was incredible. If any scenery could characterize the message of a story, this one does. The villa and setting produced just the right mood to make the story transformation possible. The supporting cast hit all the right notes, creating an environment of quirky and wonderful friends. Audrey Wells did an amazing job with the screenplay and direction. This is a real feel good movie. I recommend you put it at the top of your must see list.

PG 13-(for sexual content and language)


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