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Thursday, 12 January 2017

Retro Review: Under The Tuscan Sun (2003)

Under The Tuscan Sun
Cast: Diane Lane, Sandra Oh, Lindsay Duncan, Bova
Genre: Romantic Comedy Drama
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $58 million

Plot: San Francisco writer Frances Mayes is offered a special gift by her good friend- 10 days in Tuscany. Once there, she is captivated by its beauty and warmth and impulsively buys an ageing, but very charming villa. Fully embracing new friends and local colour, she finds herself immersed in a life-changing adventure filled with enough unexpected surprises, laughter, friendship and romance to restore her new home - and her belief in second chances

'Better Than Eat Pray Love, Yet Still Mildly Pleasant & Inoffensive'

Frances Mayer is an author hailing from San Francisco, who discovers her husband had been cheating on her and so, she leaves him and gets out of the marriage. In this cinematic adaptation of the novel, the director/writer Robin Wells adapts Frances Mane's 1997 book of memoirs on her life in Italy, and in doing so, Under The Tuscan Sun is watchable and pleasant enough. Even if it isn't a huge spectacle that will blow your mind. 

Unlike Julia Roberts's character in Eat Pray Love, (a selfish and needy one also) which is based on the real person who callously ditches her hubby, jumps into bed with another man - only to dump him and goes all the way to Italy and falls in love with a stranger - a storyline of which really made me utterly abhor that film -, Diane Lane's Frances comes across as a lot more sympathetic and well-meaning character. The film picks up on the theme of a single woman, who in this instance is recently divorced from her husband and wants alimony. This one change sort of elevates this film slightly and gives it some depth. The plot follows Frances's attempts at moving on with her life and trying to find ultimate happiness and through some of the men, she bumps into along the way, including an Italian hunk by the name of Marcello. The frustrations, challenges, the opportunities that come when going to and living in another country, resulting in sacrifices and decisions that are worth pursuing and taking a chance on. 

Diane Lane plays Frances so well: her performance just seems like a natural fit for this type of character and the life she'd gone through, prior to and after her move to the Tuscan region of Italy. She carries an emotional arc to the story, as we see her character experience her lows in her being dumped by her hubby, all the way to rediscovering what she needs and what she really wants, which is true love. Canadian actress Sandra Oh (Grey's Anatomy) is Frances's lesbian best friend, Patti who is pregnant with her female partner, who travels to Italy against her partner's wishes to attend a gay tour of Tuscany. Bova is perfect as Frances heartthrob, who wins her heart, loses it and never gets it back in the end. I'd had liked it if he went out of his way to winning back her love, even if it means severing ties with his wife. But alas, all the characters are credible, even the minor ones like the elderly gentleman who turns up outside the house and pays tribute to his late wife. 

Under The Tuscan Sun definitely feels a lot like a romantic comedy/dramedy that it is billed as; it's feel-good drama where a woman meets a new set of people, makes friends with some of them and finds that one guy who fills that void in her life. But what sets it apart is that it approaches everything in a subtle way and giving it some humour and heart. It never throws things in people's faces, and though it may not have exciting moments it still remains watchable. Yet that pleasantness, subtlety is what works best for a film set in Italy, with its luscious scenery that is tranquil and natural and is so far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life in the U.S.

Finding herself unnecessarily dumped by her husband, Frances comes to the realisation that she has been putting her life on hold for him and sets out to amend this.

Final Verdict:

Very different from the book and whilst it isn't the most captivating and mesmerising film, it is still watchable with interesting and varied characters, and a female lead character you want to root for and see her getting her happiness. Which cannot be said for Eat Pray Love - and even more despairing to see it turned into a film. 

This version of Under The Tuscan Sun at least attempts to rescue and share the essence of what the writer was trying to share with us and by inviting the audience to go along with Frances's journey. 

If you enjoy light, escapist rom-coms and romantic dramas, despite it being mildly pleasant, inoffensive and easy-going, this is the ideal film to add to that collection.


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