Monday, 18 June 2012


“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” - C.S. Lewis
We watched yet another “chick flick” at the weekend and I must say that I squirmed a little while watching it, as it pretty much indulged in quite a bit of “male-bashing” while waxing lyrical about the re-invention of the female protagonist and her ultimate success over adversity (and triumph over the male of the species). Nevertheless, I enjoyed the lush scenery and the acting was passable for what the film was and there were a couple of amusing scenes.

It was the 2003, Audrey Wells movie “Under the Tuscan Sun”. It was based on a book by Frances Mayes, which was adapted for the screen by the director, who also wrote the screenplay of the adaptation. I have not read the book, but apparently the movie is quite a different beast and has not followed the book closely (so I was told by a colleague today, with whom I was discussing the film). I have read similar books (and seen film or TV series adaptations of them) set in Provence, in Sicily, in Greece and various other exotic locations, all more or less having the same story, so the film was predictably representative of this genre.

It starred Diane Lane (as Frances Mayes), Raoul Bova (as the Latin Lover), Vincent Riotta (as the Italian married man), Lindsay Duncan (as the crackpot expat) and Sandra Oh (as Patti, Frances’ friend). The supporting actors I found rather more believably human and sympathetic than the leads and I was more interested in their stories (although they were treated very superficially).

The plot can be summarised thus: Frances is a writer and literature critic who lives a seemingly happy life in San Francisco with her husband. A disgruntled would-be novelist incensed by Frances’ negative literary criticism takes revenge by revealing to her that her husband is unfaithful. Frances discovers this to be true and her marriage ends abruptly, causing her to become depressed. Her friends make her a gift of a holiday in Italy and reluctantly she joins a bus tour of Tuscany.  Once there, quite impulsively, she buys a crumbling Tuscan villa from a Contessa who has fallen on hard times. She begins to renovate the villa and in doing so provides employment for an unlikely trio of Polish immigrants, and an old Italian builder. As they work together on the villa, she begins to settle into her new life and becomes friendly with a neighbouring family. She welcomes to her villa one of her pregnant American friends who has given her the ticket (after she has also split up with her partner). Frances is keen to become involved romantically again but chooses the wrong men: First her married real estate agent, then a charming and dashing stranger. Will Frances manage to realise all her dreams or will she need to re-evaluate her expectations? Well, easy to answer that question, it is a romantic comedy, chick flick after all!

The film was saccharine sweet and rather superficial. Its ending predictable and its characterisation rather two-dimensional and abounding with stereotypes. I am sure that many people would find some of the caricatures offensive. Some of the arty crowd would find the Fellini tribute quite ludicrous and many people in happy relationships would it all quite tiresome. However, the film has its fans and I am sure that many would watch it and enjoy it. It is a “rah-rah-rah” sort of film, or perhaps functions like a fizzy alka-seltzer drink when one wakes up with a hangover – psychologically speaking…

As far as recommending it? We voted for it after watching it – 5/10 and 6/10. I would say it’s not worth looking for, but if it’s on and you’re doing something that needs suitable light-weight distraction, have it playing in the background.

1 comment:

  1. Just give me a film set in Tuscany, with a bus tour, a crumbling villa, restoring domestic architecture to its former glory, lush gardens and NO GUNS and NO CHASE SCENES.

    I am a pushover for Edwardian costume dramas - does that make those types of films chick flicks?