October 1, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 19  

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Tuscan is a Sun of a bitch

By Ashley Audrain
Gazette Writer

Under the Tuscan Sun

Starring: Diane Lane, Sandra Oh, Raoul Bova
Director: Audrey Wells
Touchstone Pictures/2003
THE FLOWER GIRLS OF TUSCANY. From left to right: Chiara (Giulia Steigerwalt), Frances (Diane Lane) and Patti (Sandra Oh).

"Stop looking for love and it will find you."

"Don't lose your childhood innocence - it's the most important thing in life."

"Live spherically."

"Love is blind."

Under the Tuscan Sun has more romantic clich˙s and shoddy metaphors than an episode of Oprah.

However, if you can get past the symbolic overkill and the cheesy, fairy-tale dialogue in the movie, you will find a warm story about second chances in life. The film is based on the best-selling memoir by the same title, written by Frances Mayes. Diane Lane plays Frances, a San Francisco writer who, while at a book launch, is tipped off by a stranger about her husband's infidelity.

In a matter of five melodramatic minutes, Frances has settled her divorce, sold her house, moved to Tuscany at the advice of her friends and purchased an old villa called "Bramasole" on an impulse. She decides to hire a Polish work crew, with no experience in renovations, to help her restore the home while she simultaneously revamps her life.

Frances quickly becomes the village socialite and befriends the entire population of Tuscany, natural for an English-speaking American in such a situation. There are too many casual underdeveloped characters to keep track of. Luckily Lane meets the expectations of her audience after her award-winning performance in Unfaithful and is satisfying as the only lead actor in the film. While she struggles with some early attempts at humor, Lane is eventually lovable and endearing in a performance as fine as any other leading lady in Hollywood.

Among the mass of characters are several potential love interests for Frances; she flirts rather desperately with each of them during her lonely days in Tuscany, leaving the audience in suspense as to which man will eventually end her over-emphasized celibacy. Typically the youngest and sexiest character wins, but of course Marcello (Bova) is actually involved with another woman and sadly Frances remains alone. Unfortunately, the lush landscapes of Italy are more stimulating than the unsatisfactory sex scenes in this film, making it hard for the audience to muster some compassion for her broken heart.

After fighting for the marriage of two young star-crossed lovers, caring for her pregnant lesbian friend, falling in and then out of "love," easily learning a new language and restoring her sprawling villa on a shoestring budget, Frances finally finds happiness again. Just when she thought she could survive without a man in her life, one comes knocking on her villa door: an American traveller who was in Italy and heard a certain author was living in Tuscany. I'll leave the predictability of this one up to you.

This movie will satisfy your embarrassing itch for a good, solid chick-flick with the added bonus of some nice scenery and Marcello isn't too hard to look at either. Like any feel-good romance about renewal and happiness, this love story might inspire a tear or two - right before you quickly realize you've been had by all the elements of a classic fairy tale.



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