Diane Lane follows up her Oscar-nominated performance in Unfaithful with Under the Tuscan Sun, a more lighthearted romantic comedy that is surprisingly entertaining, even for guys.
Lane stars as Frances, a writer who is going through a difficult divorce. Grief-stricken, she goes on a gay tour of Tuscany to ease her sorrows, only to come across a large but rundown villa for sale. In the spur of the moment, she buys the house and starts a new life in Italy. Of course, hardships and relationships ensue.
Lane is a good actress and shows it yet again here, creating a likeable but flawed character that remind me of a lot of real women I know (well, a few). She has a lot going for her but has to overcome a lot of personal obstacles to become better again. She is also supported by a good cast; Sandra Oh, as her best friend, is quite humorous, and the relationship between Lane and Dan Bucatinsky is also fairly interesting.
Under the Tuscan Sun gets props because it is enjoyable even when it is depressing. Some might say that the movie has too much heavy-handedness when it comes to the various relationships that are destroyed throughout the course of the story, but in reality, Tuscan Sun is rather light and never meant to be overly dramatic (at the few parts it does it becomes quite boring). It is not the funniest romantic comedy out there, and it isn't supposed to be, but still has enough laughs from beginning to end.
It also succeeds by avoiding at least some cliches. Under the Tuscan Sun is a romantic comedy that really doesn't focus on the main character's relationship with men (romantically, that is). Up until the very, very end, the movie avoids some of the most obvious cliches that appear at the end of most romantic comedies. That may be a spoiler, but since you've already read it, it doesn't matter now!
Under the Tuscan Sun does lag a little bit at parts, especially towards the end, as the movie tries to rap up various storylines. The final five minutes or so are especially boring (for a 21-year old straight guy), and actually seemed rather unnecessary. In fact, while at a few parts the story seems to be suggesting the opposite, the movie's theme seems to be that you can only be truly happy if you are in a relationship. Near the end, it seems as though Lane's character has finally realized that this isn't true, but then the movie throws in a little footnote just to make the women happy. Perhaps a lot of women truly are not happy unless they are in a relationship, but Under the Tuscan Sun seems to be trying to point this out. After all, Lane's character is only happy at three times in the entire movie - the beginning, a small stretch in the middle, and the very end.
Under the Tuscan Sun is not perfect and does not stand out considerably, but is still entertaining and mildly funny throughout. Women should enjoy it and even men should be able to stand it.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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