Picture it…Italy…2003. A divorced college professor (Diane Lane) visits Tuscany at the behest of her lesbian best friend Patti (Sandra Oh), buys a shabby villa on a whim and waits around for her abject self-loathing to give way to personal happiness. As directed by Audrey Wells (Guinevere), Under the Tuscan Sun is more or less a living, breathing facsimile of the Oprah magazine. Wells is clearly enamored of Italian traditions and the country’s ravishing landscapes, but she’s not a strong visual storyteller and certainly not confident enough to allow the country’s vistas or Lane’s equally gorgeous but weathered expression to silently evoke the story’s obsession with fate. Because the characters have a way of speaking the film’s cute subtext, this easy-breezy ode to self-discovery works considerable overtime to lecture Lane’s depressed Frances about happiness and the mysteries of life, often filtering her misery through various discourses on Italian neo-realism. Wells assumes the audience’s ignorance of all things Italian, and as such any scene with Lindsay Duncan’s Katherine (an American with delusions of Anita Ekberg) engaging La Dolce Vita or Nights of Cabiria feels more condescending than helpful. But even if the film lacks a certain magical realist flare to really ignite the story’s playful obsession with serendipitous occurrences, Under the Tuscan Sun is ennobled by its very ordinariness. Wells barely makes mention of Patti’s lesbianism—for her, she’s just another ordinary woman looking to live an extraordinary life. Katherine recalls a conversation with Federico Fellini and how the famous director told her: “You have to live spherically.” The film begins with lonely Frances leaving a steely, unwelcoming metropolis and ends with her discovering family in the Mediterranean countryside. In the film’s lascivious men and hysterical women, Wells makes love to classic Italian clichés that art has forever imitated (and vice versa), and in bombarding Frances with endless coincidences and missed opportunities, she sweetly celebrates the mysteries of life and those little forks in the road that so many of us ignore or take for granted. Now, if only there wasn’t so much emphasis on the supposedly forward-thinking Frances trying to snag a man.
- Audrey Wells
- Audrey Wells
- Diane Lane, Sandra Oh, Raoul Bova, Vincent Riotta, Dan Bucatinsky, Lindsay Duncan, Kate Walsh, Valentine Pelka, Kristoffer Ryan Winters
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