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Under the Tuscan Sun (2003) shines

Under the Tuscan Sun movie review
Photo Credit: Under the Tuscan Sun / Buena Vista Pictures
Under The Tuscan Sun (2003) brings a chick flick heroine learning something she's always known, or just figured out: men stink. Publicly loathed writer Frances Mayes (Diane Lane) divorces her adulterous husband, and on a whim, becomes the owner of a dilapidated villa in Tuscany.

It's certainly a fixer-upper, and so is Maye's life. She understands and yearns that there is more to life than settling for a broken heart, but she doesn't know quite where to start. Charismatic, and one of the best modern leading ladies around, Lane is wonderfully charming as she makes new friends, rebuilds her villa, and undergoes a slight whirlwind romance. But her transformation doesn't focus on filling the void of one lost relationship with another, but regaining her own self-confidence and forging a different life for herself.

While Lane shines, and quick appearances by Sandra O and Kate Walsh, the script is a bit blotchy. The start of Mayes trek to Tuscany and some of the relationships Mayes builds are quite cliche. Perhaps the performer who suffers the worst is stage veteran Lindsay Duncan, who plays the less elegant, more eccentric Brit who is trying to hold onto her attractiveness offers too much kookiness and not enough elegance or substance. Her character may be my only big qualm about the film.

Mayes' journey centers on stepping out of bounds to adapt a new life. She wants a home, instead of a house; something that is filled with family, and not just the opposite sex. The movie is not typically about her hunting for men in a new country but recovering from marital infidelity on the other side of the world. The location itself is an exotic character supporting Lane. Every frame of her villa, the countryside, and beach is beautiful and makes me feel like I'm on vacation.

Overall the story strongly reminded me of Eat, Pray, Love about author Elizabeth Gilbert who treks the world to gain her own inner peace. Both movies are rewarding for those who don't mind motivating women stepping out of their own world to discover other priorities. I would even counter the former is offers a more heartfelt performance by its star Diane Lane than Love's Julia Roberts.

Some chick flicks grow dated with age, and though it's only twelve years old, Under the Tuscan Sun is a pleasing romp through the "women's film" genre. Though the adaptation of the same novel name is (supposedly) far off-key in its fictionalization, director Audrey Wells crafts a splendid rom-com. Humbly, and with great charm, the film reminds us that sometimes it does a person good to rebuild our lives one relationship, as well as one room, at a time.
Rating: ★☆
Have you seen Under the Tuscan Sun? What do you think?

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