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Under the Tuscan Sun
Stars: Diane Lane, Raoul Bova, Sandra Oh, Vincent Riotta, Dan Bucatinsky, Lindsay Duncay, Pawel Szadja, Giulia Steigerwalt and Kristoffer Ryan Director/Scriptwriter: Audrey Wells (adapted from Frances Mayes memoir)
Music: Christophe Beck
Touchstone Pictures
Running Time: two hours
Rating: PG-13

All the camera has to do is aim at actress Diane Lane and that's a movie. As with Meryl Streep, Jane Seymour or Michelle Pfeiffer, it's about acting attitude, facial muscles and eyes. In Under the Tuscan Sun, an adaptation of Frances Mayes' travel book, Lane plays a divorced woman who suddenly decides to build a new life for herself in Italy. Readers will be going back to their copies of Under the Tuscan Sun to see if they accidentally missed something. Don't worry; this is Hollywood (and Audrey Wells) at work making a human-interest story from life abroad.

In the Wells version, Diane Lane is a happily married book reviewer. She discovers her husband has a girlfriend and then he divorces Diane but keeps their house. So much for matrimonial vows. Diane's friends (including close friend Sandra Oh) give her a trip to Italy and to make sure she keeps away from men, books her on a gay tour. Diane is starting to recover from divorce-shock on the tour when she falls in love with a broken-down Tuscany villa just placed on the market. In a hilarious sales scene, she manages to get the house and a new friend in the real estate agent (Vincent Riotta, with the kindest eyes). Enter the repair crew with various languages and skills. Life becomes enjoyable for Diane as she remembers forgotten cooking skills and even finds a new love, Marcello. Also enter friend Sandra, now pregnant, who comes for a long, pleasant visit.

What is interesting is watching Diane meet the villagers and cope with a new language. There are shopkeepers, another real estate agent (Lindsay Duncan) who idolizes Fellini, plus life in an old building where previous tenants such as wildlife, don't want to move out. Diane even comes back to faith when someone gives her a statute of St. Lorenzo, the patron saint of cooks, and oh, those mouth-watering meals. There are wonderful lines of dialogue, such as "Regrets are a waste of time," or "When driving in Italy, a green light means go, yellow lights are a decoration and red lights are a suggestion." Workmen can cross pipes so that toilets have hot water and lightening can strike just about anywhere. There are good and bad men all over the world, and we may never look at ladybugs the same way again.

Under the Tuscan Sun does play like an advertisement for Italy. Having traveled through Tuscany, I can attest to the blue-sky being overwhelming intense. However, when one introduces a snake in the film, the audience would like to know what happened to said snake. Also, a certain owl? Then, we come to the tacked on love scene. This is so obvious--Technicolor sky, music, sundown--that it is almost as though the theater owner threw a switch. Under the Tuscan Sun is moving smoothly, and really doesn't need an obvious ploy, which, for Lane, looks like a discard from the Unfaithful footage. This flaw mars an otherwise, very pleasant film.

Under the Tuscan Sun showcases a lead actress of today. There is enough story here with workmen, villagers and visitors to compel audiences to see the film. Yes, there is comedy (buying the villa) and yes, Lane has comedic timing. Sandra Oh is another talent to watch, and her range of emotions from single girl to expectant Mom. Oh, my, did I forget there are men in the film? Excuse me, Raoul Bova as Marcello, the loving cad, Vincent Riotta (Mr. Martini) as the kind real estate man and Pawel Szadja as a young Polish worker in love with an Italian girl. Without you, the Tuscan Sun wouldn't be as bright.

Copyright 2003 Marie Asner
Submitted 9/16/03

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