Cinema Signal:

365 Days In Tuscany
2004 Wall Calendar

. "Under the Tuscan Sun"

Writer-director Audrey Wells has taken the beautiful Diane Lane ("Unfaithful") and put her amidst the warm Italian people, the historically amazing cities of Tuscany, Rome and Florence and the tapestry of the Italian countryside to bring us a bathetic, sappy piece of drivel devoid of drama. Understand, this is just a male reaction to a Lifetime MOW released as a theatrical feature.

When Frances Mayes (Lane), a San Francisco writer, is informed by her attorney that her husband is suing for divorce and half the house, you'da thought she'd seek revenge by going out and taking up with a handsome politician or CEO. With Lane's looks, the world of attractive, powerful men are no problem. And, what better way to regain her standard of living and equilibrium? Instead, she adapts to her new circumstances by renting a cheap short-term apartment and burrowing in.

When the bleakness of her new life becomes too much to bear, she takes up the invitation of a friend and travels to Italy on a gay tour. When she spots a villa that had previously been brought to her attention, she jumps off the tour and tries to buy the place. The high point of drama in this tale is when her offer is rejected by the old woman who is filled with the remorse of selling her family treasure and can't seem to get enough for it. But, fear not. Following a convenient "sign from god", Frances gets the deed.

Then, it's see her hire a team of workers to fix up her new place, get frightened by a thunderstorm, fend off a married lothario, get frightened by a snake, walk the countryside, etc. If the environment doesn't make you run to your local travel agent for tickets to Italy, just think of the coffee.

I love Diane Lane. I can't adequately describe my feelings for Italy. But, the bleakness of this picture's interest level proved more difficult to watch than chrome rusting. The story is loosely based on the real Frances Mayes' book of experiences. But Mayes doesn't look like Lane, and the possibilities available to her are of a less dramatic potential. Which is why there needed to be a qualifier in the credits saying that Mayes' account has been changed "for dramatic effect." What dramatic effect?

The real matter here is that the film is miscast. The realities are false. With actresses like Kathy Bates, Tyne Daly or Lisa Kudrow playing Mayes, for example, the allusions would be sensible, the choices plausible. With Lane, you can't buy into the main character's moony spirit and you're embarrassed for her having to grapple with such vapid suppositions which brings out the worst in her. Worst of all, the material is pointless and, except for a few librarians and Sunday school teachers with limited standards, without appeal or merit.

If writer-director Wells thinks a disconnection between the subject of the source material and the actress she chooses to represent her doesn't introduce falsity into her movie, she'll find it in undemanding, oversentimental, company. Certainly not in mine.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Opinion Section
Comments from readers:
Poorly written
Rating: 1

I think this review says more about the writer than it does about the movie. I don't know who should be more insulted - Lane, a woman who has looks, so needs no heart, brains, or independence or Mayes whose talents, whatever they may be, gives her fewer options because she can't attach herself to a male CEO's coattails. I have no idea whether or not I would enjoy this movie, but I certainly know whose opinion I'm not going to rely on . . . unless he looks like Brad Pitt . . .

                                                      ~~ Tammy T. 
Editor's note: Alas, he doesn't.

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