Under the Tuscan Sun

January 28, 2012 9 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

After the sultry character she played in last year’s “Unfaithful”, it was time for a change for Diane Lane. Nominated for an Academy Award for her that role, her stock went up a few points and it was onward to a different kind of movie. As luck would have it, “Under the Tuscan Sun” was just that movie. While not as steamy and seductive, the movie has its share of sex, sex appeal and enough Italian stereotypes to more than occupy the running time. Based on the book “Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy”, it was adapted for the screen and directed by Audrey Wells with only one previous directing credit: “Guinevere”. The role gave Lane a chance to showcase more of her acting ability than those purely written for her body (though she shows that here as well); and she was even nominated for a Golden Globe for her role here. All that aside, some might consider this another “chick flick”, I certainly did. And they might be right, but the film isn’t without its charm.

Lane plays Frances, a writer and book critic in San Francisco. Together with her two friends, both of which are lesbians (or “gay”, I’m not sure how to properly address the issue), she seems to have a fairly happy and normal life. While at a party, though, a disgruntled author suggests to her that her husband might be having an affair. Sure enough, the next scene shows her in her lawyer’s office trying to divide up the house and all of her possessions. During her course of rebuilding, she moves into a stressful furnished apartment (she only took three boxes of her possessions, leaving the rest for her husband) complex. After hearing her neighbor weep at his situation, divorced, she is offered a trip to Italy from her friends. The trip is guaranteed to be stress free as it’s a “gay” trip, everyone is already in couples or certainly not interested. She quickly finds a nice little house (that, conveniently enough needs a lot of work) and after chasing off some prospective buyers and a sign from above (literally); the house is all hers. Now this is all predictable and it could have been a lot worse. She employs illegal immigrants from Poland to help her rebuild the place, she gets sage advice from Katherine (Lindsay Duncan) who seems to be there just because the movie deems it; and she even meets the stereotypical Italian male who shows her a long overdue night of passion.

This doesn’t exactly suggest that things will all work out for Frances, though.

While trying to avoid the obvious traps and pratfalls of a “chick flick”, this succeeds on several levels. While it may be obvious that this is a follow-up to Lane’s great performance in “Unfaithful”, I can’t really say that I can picture another woman in the role. Aside from being a great, and attractive, actress, she actually has the ability to command a performance all on her own. There are several background characters in the film, though she stands out as the one we really care about. While I’m sure that many women can identify with what she has been through, it’s a story of not building but re-building. While the movie manages to tie up a lot of loose ends, we don’t get that satisfaction with Frances. That’s not to say that things aren’t left to the imagination, but the film avoids the obvious compromise of everything ending up all neat and tidy. Call it what you will, but for you men out there, it couldn’t hurt to see this one with a date (or wife) and, well, women will probably see it if they’ve even remotely heard of the book. And I’m sure most of them have.

Video: How does it look?

“Under the Tuscan Sun” is presented in an anamorphic 1.85:1 image that really delivers. This being a new to DVD release, we can expect that the colors are bright and vivid, image sharp and faults are hard to spot. These are all true when it comes to how the movie looks. While the palette is slightly muted in some scenes, it bursts with color in others. Flesh tones are fair and accurate and edge enhancement doesn’t seem to be a problem, either. While there’s not a lot to complain about the transfer, it simply doesn’t stand out as being reference material. There are a few times when some grain and a bit of dirt can be seen, but these are few and far between. Viewers will be more than satisfied with the way this is represented on disc.

Audio: How does it sound?

Sound isn’t really a selling-point of this movie, as it wasn’t expected to be. A divorced woman buying a “fixer-upper” in Tuscany doesn’t exactly scream dynamic audio. Though the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack does include some moments that shows off, this is mainly a dialogue-driven movie. The front stage is active at most times, with the surrounds chiming in at only key moments during the course of the movie. Channel separation is clear and it’s safe to say that this is what we’d expect to find from a new movie. While this won’t really impress your friends, it more than serves its purpose here; plain and simple. Like the video, it’s not outstanding; but then again it doesn’t have to be.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Though separate widescreen and full-frame versions of the movie are available, this isn’t really a “Special Edition” per se. We have a trio of deleted scenes that are shown in non-anamorphic widescreen that don’t really offer a lot more to the story. In other words, it’s clear why these were left on the cutting room floor. A featurette “Tuscany 101” is actually a clever way of labeling the standard “Making of…” featurette. Interviews with Land and the rest of the folks involved get you psyched to see the movie (or if you’ve seen it, psyched to think about the movie you just saw. No real substance here, but better to have than have not! Lastly, we get a pretty good commentary track with Director/Writer Audrey Welles. Being the Screenwriter and Director, Wells has a vast knowledge of the material and the atmosphere in general. She delivers a pretty good commentary track telling us tidbits about the shoot and the actors. While not a lot of information was gained here (she seems to like to admire her work), there are some dead spots; but all in all a pretty good track. “Under the Tuscan Sun” has its audience and this DVD will undoubtedly sell well to it.

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