Forgetting the story for a moment, Under the Tuscan Sun is a beautifully photographed film. While Diane Lane does a fine job as the lead character, the real star here is the Italian countryside, with its rich, varied colors, as shown through the lenses of cinematographer Geoffrey Simpson.
Based on the best-selling memoirs of author Frances Mayes, the film tells the story of a San Francisco book critic named Frances (Lane). She finds her life upended when her husband unexpectedly divorces her for a much younger woman (and wants alimony to boot). Frances slips into a profound depression, no longer able to imagine a happy life for herself. Concerned that Frances is “in danger of never recovering,” her lesbian best friend Patty (Sandra Oh) offers up a ticket for a ten day gay tour of Italy—“nobody will hit on you,” she explains.
Diane Lane fully embodies the excitement of an artist in a new land. Her spirit and enthusiasm are a real delight. Traveling on the tour bus in Tuscany, she spots a 300-year-old villa. Following her instincts, Frances quits the tour and decides to buy the house with her divorce settlement. She realizes she’s bought the large villa for a life she doesn’t even have, but she has to believe she’ll be happy again someday.
Frances begins to settle in, as she meets her neighbors and hires illegal workers from Poland to help remodel her villa. Although her depression tells her she wants to be alone, the story smartly surrounds her with a cast of fun, eccentric locals including Katherine (Lindsay Duncan) an actress who picked up a lot of advice from the great Federico Fellini; Mr. Martini (Vincent Riotta), a friendly real-estate agent and has a crush on her and a friendly family next door with an elderly Grandmother who is crushed when she is dumped by an e-mail lover in Ecuador.
One day in Rome, Frances meets a gorgeous Italian man who looks like he just stepped out of the pages of GQ. They have a romantic day— Limoncello, the beach and a cute kitten, all help to set the scene as she seduces this guy, and they have a passionate weekend. By now, Under the Tuscan Sun is in full fantasy mode. When Frances first moves into the villa, a dry water tap will eventually be gushing; she thinks it will make a difference if a dour elderly man (Mario Monicelli) who walks by her window every day will just acknowledge her. Guess what happens near the film’s end.
Writer/director Audrey Wells never elevates Under the Tuscan Sun above a beautiful, occasionally sweet Italian travelogue, but it works nicely on that level. The usually reliable Diane Lane gives the amazing scenic views some depth. Don’t go into this one expecting a deep narrative; just enjoy the fantasy and the beautiful scenery.
Presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 1080p, Disney has done a pretty good job with this transfer. Aside from a few soft looking shots, the scenery looks amazing. Colors are brilliant and saturation spot-on. The imagery is truly everything Blu-ray should be, while flesh tones appear normal.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is surprisingly full and active. The surround channels are used often, supplying nice involvement during storm scenes. Christophe Beck’s score emanates from both fronts and rears. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout.
English, French, and Spanish subtitles are available.
The following special features, carried over from the DVD, are included:
- Audio Commentary: Director/ screenwriter Audrey Wells provides an informative, if pedestrian commentary on various areas of the production. She discusses working with the cast, shooting locations, adapting Mayes’s memoirs and the themes explored in the film.
- Tuscan 101 (SD, 9 min) A standard making of, featuring interviews withcast and crew, as well as a few words from the real-life Frances Mayes.
- Deleted Scenes (SD, 3 min) Three in total, that were wisely removed from the film.