Imagine you are in Italy, sipping wine on the beach gazing into the eyes of a gorgeous Italian lover. Throw in a line like “I wish I could swim in your eyes” and a furry kitten, and you’ve got not only every woman’s unrealistic fantasy, but also the premise of Academy Award nominee Diane Lane’s new film “Under the Tuscan Sun.”
A screen adaptation of the novel by Frances Mayes, the similarities between book and film essentially end with the title and setting. While the novel follows the “adventures” of a middle-aged literature professor with a passion for villa restoration and Etruscan history, the film floats along on the heels of a beautiful young writer looking for love.
Frances (Lane, “Unfaithful”) loses her husband and home in the opening minutes of the film, making for a strangely dark beginning that doesn’t quite mesh with the ridiculousness that follows. A friend offers a free ticket for a gay tour of Tuscany, setting up the visual of Diane Lane in a jaunty “Gay and Away” cap following her flamboyant tour guide; a blatantly stereotypical representation of the gay community. The stereotypes don’t end there, as Frances encounters several of America’s favorite Italian characters, including the endearing mumbling old man and the passionate yet unfaithful lover.
When Frances abandons her tour to purchase a nearby villa on impulse, her “new life” begins and all pretenses of reality are forgotten. What remains is not as fun as it could have been, the film is plagued by attempts at profound statements about the nature of life and love that appear out of place and cheesy.
Considering the location and, let’s face it, sheer beauty of several male costars, one can almost understand how Lane was able to overlook the often embarrassing script and incoherent plot. For the viewer’s purposes, however, it would be cheaper and more worthwhile to simply purchase a Tuscany travel brochure.
Rating: 2 1/2 stars.