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
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
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.
~~ Jules Brenner