Under the Tuscan Sun is the story of Francis, a writer who, after her marriage abruptly ends, embarks on a tour of Tuscany at her friends’ behest. Once there, she purchases a dilapidated villa in an effort to change her life. The remarkable part of the movie is that by her predictable success she finds what she’s looking for rather than what she-and the audience-thinks she’s looking for.
It’s not your average romantic comedy, however. When we watch movies, we always wait for the big moment: the kiss, the explosion, or that plot twist you never saw coming. Hollywood has virtually lost the ability to simply tell a really good story without any edge-of-your-seat theatrics.
While Under the Tuscan Sun is not without a good plot or even a twist or two, it tells a simple story, which only makes it feel more believable because the characters are so normal and their antics are never over-the-top. Under the Tuscan Sun is a movie that feels real. It’s a refreshing change.
The subtlety and simplicity are the real jewels of this movie. There are fantastic little bits in the subplot that initially seem insignificant but come back later in the film without losing any of the subtlety that gives the movie its real charm.
I usually hate movies that try to press upon their audience some kind of moral or life lesson. Under the Tuscan Sun does try to present a few such “lessons,” but does so subtly and builds over the course of the entire film. The effect works in this movie, because it isn’t forced, foreseeable, or even particularly obvious when the point is driven home. Whatever you are supposed to “learn” feels like a natural conclusion rather than a pointed Aesop-like ending.
While Diane Lane exudes enough charm onscreen to be a surprisingly likable leading actress, she is not nearly as endearing as the supporting cast. The quirky Polish contractors are enormously entertaining, and Francis’ quick-witted best friend steals the heroine’s thunder in virtually ever scene they share.
As a whole, the cast is excellent, full of talented unknowns who will hopefully find themselves in many other films.
The most unbelievable part of the movie, however, is not that Diane Lane was so easily able to uproot her entire life to move to Tuscany, but that she-or any woman-would ever fall for a man wearing a khaki corduroy suit. B+