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Author Frances Mayes (Diane Lane) is depressed following her divorce from an unfaithful husband. When her lesbian friend Patti (Sandra Oh) offers Frances a ticket on a gay tour of Italy, Frances accepts and becomes the sole straight member of the group. During a stop-off in Tuscany, Frances falls in love with a crumbling villa owned by a stern Contessa. Satisfied that God has given his approval to Frances, the Contessa sells the villa and Frances begins the mammoth task of renovation. With the help of three illegal Polish immigrants and real estate agent Mr Martini (Vincent Riotta) who has a crush on her, Frances gradually makes her new house liveable and finds romance with wealthy playboy Marcello (Raoul Bova).

Review by Louise Keller:
I must confess, I enjoyed this fantasy about starting a new life in Italy much more the second time around on DVD. It's a highly romanticized adventure about love, happiness and family, and in the screenplay, director/ writer Audrey Wells brings the characters to life with plenty of verve and colour. Based on Frances Mayes' novel, the film excels in leaving us with indelible images of Italy and the Italian way of life.

Once Frances convinces the owner that she is the right person to buy the property (the 'sign' is a pigeon making its mark on her head), it's a case of finding the right builders to help her with renovations. Ironically, it's a band of Polish labourers who start to work on her home and become her 'family'. But perhaps the first real 'sign' comes when she first catches sight of the extroverted and hedonistic Katherine, who delights in wearing extravagant hats and eating ice-cream. Mindful of Katherine's advice to 'never lose your childhood enthusiasm', Frances is bewitched by the charming and very Italian Marvello; their romantic liaison in the exquisite village of Positano is the epitome of a romantic seduction.

We drool at this and other drop-dead gorgeous locations through Geoffrey Simpson's camera lens; the Mediterranean is blue, and the lifestyle enticing. But there are other distractions - from the secret love-affair between one of the Polish labourers and the daughter of a local landowner to the unexpected arrival of her friend Patti, who promptly gives birth to her bouncing baby girl. Diane Lane is captivating as Frances, and even though some of the adventures are rather unlikely, we sincerely care about her and are willing her to find the happiness she is so vividly seeking. Lindsay Duncan's Katherine is the film's most memorable character - so filled with unorthodox incongruities - and Sandra Oh as Patti, brings unexpected charm.

Watch for the 'La Dolce Vita' scene, as Katherine dallies in the fountain and the highly amusing portrait painting scene that involves an artist called Zeus (who is studying Tuscan light) and a smattering of carefully positioned ostrich feathers. Raoul Bova makes a charming Marcello, and we, like Frances, fall in love with the idea of an exotic Italian love affair. The sunshine is warm Under The Tuscan Sun and romance is in abundance.

'It's about taking a step before you're ready to take a step,' says writer/director Audrey Welles in an entertaining making-of feature on the DVD, which includes interviews with Diane Lane and behind the scenes footage. 'If you wait until you're ready - you're never going to do it.' Also on the DVD, there are three deleted scenes, plus an insightful commentary by Welles, who talks about the novel's evocative power that enticed her to adapt the memoir.

Published: July 15, 2004

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(US/Italy, 2003)

CAST: Diane Lane, Sandra Oh, Lindsay Duncan, Raoul Bova, Vincent Riotta, Mario Monicelli, Roberto Nobile, Anita Zagaria, Evelina Gori, Giulia Steigerwalt, Pawel Szajda, Valentine Pelka

DIRECTOR: Audrey Wells

SCRIPT: Audrey Wells (book by Frances Mayes)

RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes



DVD RELEASE: July 7, 2004

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