|Under the Tuscan Sun is a beautiful movie. Beautiful people, breathtaking cinematography, a lovely soundtrack. This is the type of quiet, emotional film that one can watch and enjoy without having to wear ear-plugs or make a large effort to suspend one's disbelief. Given that the lead actress has quite a talent in front of the camera, watching what would seem like nothing more than an extended journal entry is engrossing, even if itís not full of back-breaking tension. Like a big-budget spectacular replete with dancing car crashes, big gun-fights, and loads of bullets might not impress all viewers, neither will the soft elegance and introspective nature of Under the Tuscan Sun.|
But Diane Lane certainly makes the task of watching and enjoying this film an easy one. She has owned a career of mostly mediocre roles in films that have seen varied success at the box office, but with 2001's Unfaithful, she finally received some recognition for her abilities (even if that film was overrated by the majority of critics). With Under the Tuscan Sun, she doesn't necessarily improve upon her choice of film (Tuscan will not appeal to all viewers), but the role of a cheated upon wife and new divorcee becomes a showcase for her dramatic abilities as she makes it easy to care about what's going to happen to this character, despite the lack of palpable danger in the film.
This movie can probably be summarized as a look at the personal and emotional journey of a woman struggling to deal with her own identity. And that journey is a rewarding one for the audience since the film hops along at a decent pace and doesn't keep the viewer in his or her chair for an inordinate amount of time. Beautifully photographed as well, even when it's difficult to find fault with Frances' life (that's Lane's character), there is always something nice to look at. Assuming for the moment that audience members are interested in this genre of film, one of the only problems for viewers might be the fact that it's not always an easy task to feel empathy for what Frances must endure once she's in Italy.
After the character's period of mourning over the loss an dissolution of her marriage, the physical problems she has to put up with are never very severe. While she runs into some road-blocks in repairing her newly purchased ancient Italian villa, it's not as though her life is in physical danger. Everything that really hurts this woman is emotional and resides in her heart and mind. And it's only because of Diane Lane's absorbing performance that the film remains an engrossing experience. The film also benefits from the appearance of Sandra Oh in the supporting role of "Patti," Frances' pregnant friend. Though the character is not featured heavily until the last third of the film, Patti is the source of some of the most emotional exchanges in the film.
The film might have been helped by additional emotional "snafu" hitting the fan in additional scenes, but short of slapping together a car chase or something mindlessly visceral in nature, Under the Tuscan Sun would probably never have been a total crowd pleaser. Using the abhorrent term, "chick flick," would do the film a disservice since that term usually invites with it the banality of female-skewing comedy that carries such a specific demographic focus. While it's foolish to believe big and burly types would find this film as entertaining as something more action oriented, Under the Tuscan Sun shouldn't be dismissed as a "chick flick." That degrades the fine performances of the actors.
This film is not off-beat or quirky and nor does it contain a sense of heart-thumping excitement. It's a film for the mind that just happens to include a very fine view of Italy and a set of sky-high production values. The musical score is not intrusive, and gives the picture just the right sort of accompaniment. The actors are allowed their time to shine without the orchestra forcing its musical opinions on how the characters are feeling and how viewers themselves should be feeling during any given moment. The different elements of this film work together extremely harmoniously and had Diane Lane thrown a vase or two around, the film would have no failing. Beautiful and understated, Under the Tuscan Sun will be appreciated by fans of Italy and Diane Lane and will reward its viewers with a satisfying and thoughtfully humorous story.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.