Sunday, 14 October 2018

Movie Review: The Painted Veil (1934)

A drama about adultery and atonement, The Painted Veil is bogged down by stiff execution.

The initial setting is Austria. After her younger sister gets married, Katrin (Greta Garbo) feels the pressure and hastily agrees to wed the earnest but uncharismatic Dr. Walter Fane (Herbert Marshall). He loves her, but she is ambivalent. They relocate to China, where Walter is quickly preoccupied with fighting a cholera epidemic.

The neglected Katrin is charmed by British diplomat Jack Townsend (George Brent), who is himself married but unabashedly lusts after Katrin. She cannot resist his charms, and with Walter intent on pursuing the inland source of the worsening epidemic, Katrin's marriage is soon in a heap of trouble.

Directed by Richard Boleslawski and based on a W. Somerset Maugham story, The Painted Veil offers a dependable Greta Garbo performance and a decent recreation of Chinese locations on the MGM backlot.

But otherwise this is a stodgy drama about a cold marriage, infidelity and attempted redemption, with unconvincing performances by Herbert Marshall and George Brent. The cholera sub-plot could have added some intrigue, but is poorly handled. Somehow Dr. Fane takes on the role of dictative commander and social disruptor, issuing orders to the Chinese military. Walter is eventually undone by his own preposterous actions, and it's not in the film's favour that his consequent punishment appears richly deserved.

Garbo lights up the screen whenever she is on it, draping her co-stars in long shadows, but she is not helped by a character who demonstrates ill judgment at every turn. The noisy recreations of Chinese culture, festivals, rural hardship and epidemic-induced panic are passable as an exotic distraction from the dull plot.

The Painted Veil cannot hide Garbo's transcendent talent, but neither can she lift the drama above the doldrums.

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Movie Review: Two Weeks In Another Town (1962)

A drama set in the film industry, Two Weeks In Another Town features an inept story and is emotionally void.

Former superstar film actor Jack Andrus (Kirk Douglas) has spent three years in a sanitarium after suffering a nervous breakdown. He caught his wife Carlotta (Cyd Charisse) cheating, resorted to alcoholism, and intentionally crashed his car into a wall. Now almost recovered, he accepts an invitation from director Kruger (Edward G. Robinson) to shoot a few scenes for good money in Rome.

Kruger and Andrus collaborated on seven previous features when they were both hugely successful. Now Kruger's career is also in decline, working for a cut-rate Italian producer and constantly nagged by his wife Clara (Claire Trevor). Jack steps in to help complete the film, including straightening out wayward star Davie Drew (George Hamilton), who is suffering from the sudden onset of stardom. Jack also starts a relationship with Veronica (Daliah Lavi), but Carlotta's presence in Rome complicates matters and re-triggers Jack's insecurities.

Ten years after the brilliant The Bad And The Beautiful, director Vincente Minnelli reteams with star Kirk Douglas for another inside-Hollywood story. The need not have bothered. This adaptation of the Irwin Shaw novel is a miserable screen experience, wasting a good cast and made worse by a CinemaScope format intended to showcase Rome but instead dwarfing what is intended as a character showcase.

As soon as Jack arrives in Rome the film stalls and drifts sideways with no apparent purpose and then starts to inch backwards into unintentional satirical territory. A romance with Veronica drops in from another movie, a miscast George Hamilton tries in vain to generate intensity, and Cyd Charisse as Carlotta appears to exist for the sole purpose of aggravating Jack.

In the meantime any sense of drama is supposed to be generated by Jack overseeing the dubbing process and then taking over directing duties: his techniques include kicking his star lady in the butt to get her to perform. Only Edward G. Robinson as once-celebrated director Kruger trying to reverse a precipitous career slide emerges with any credit.

By the time Jack emotionally regresses into a crazed driver mode both Douglas' wild-eyed over-the-top acting and Minnelli's equally bungled rear projection staging threaten to turn the film into bad comedy. Two Weeks In Another Town should have just stayed home.

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Saturday, 13 October 2018

Movie Review: The Kite Runner (2007)

A drama about friendship and lost innocence, The Kite Runner is an engrossing story of personal and societal upheaval.

In 2000, Amir (Khalid Abdalla) lives in San Francisco, is married to Soraya (Atossa Leoni) and has just published his latest book. A phone call from old family friend and mentor Rahim Khan (Shaun Toub) implores Amir to visit his homeland of Afghanistan.

In flashback, Amir remembers his childhood circa 1978, around the time communist and Islamist influences were reshaping the country. As a young boy, Amir looked up to his highly principled father Agha Sahib (Homayoun Ershadi), a well-to-do intellectual and philanthropist. Amir's best friend was Hassan, the son of the family's head servant, although Hassan was from a different ethnicity and subjected to taunts and bullying from other neighbourhood boys. Amir and Hassan compete as an effective team in the popular sport of kite fighting, with Hassan an expert in retrieving fallen kites.

A harrowing incident of abuse ruptures the friendship between Amir and Hassan. The Soviets invade Afghanistan, and Agha Sahib flees the country with Amir. They start a new life in the United States, mingling with other Afghan refugee families, where Amir meets Soraya. But now the past has come calling, a secret is revealed, and Amir heads back to his devastated homeland to take care of unfinished business.

An adaptation of the best-selling book by Khaled Hosseini directed by Marc Forster, The Kite Runner achieves a unique resonance. Epic in scope and scale and yet deeply personal, the David Benioff script captures the delicate tones of nostalgia as seen through the fog of individual failure, seismic social changes, and the complex immigrant experience. The film is never less than fully engaging, and although a tense and violent confrontation with bad guys in the final act is not to the same standard, it is brief enough to not substantively matter.

Most of the scenes set in Afghanistan are in the Dari language (the local variant of Farsi), but thanks to stellar work by the cast members (both the adults and the children), it hardly matters. Forster is able to tease out the dangerous undercurrents of change churning below Amir's childhood, his father's increasing references to communist politics and fanatical imams culminating in Soviet tanks rolling into the country.

Before then, The Kite Runner is a story of an asymmetrical friendship, the scrappy and resourceful Hassan pure in his unblinking loyalty to his master. Amir is more bookworm than streetwise, and his unwillingness to face down adversity is a large part of the chasm that develops with Hassan. Self-loathing erupts into relationship carnage, and it would be many years before Amir can make amends.

When the film moves to San Francisco it turns into an eloquent exploration of the immigrant experience, intellectuals and former generals now running ramshackle grocery stores and trading amongst themselves in sprawling bazaars. And yet they carry the pride of their former status, as well as the ancient cultural norms and expectations until the chain is consciously broken.

The Kite Runner soars on the winds of heartfelt drama, and the echoes of childhood resonating across decades and continents.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Friday, 12 October 2018

Movie Review: Draft Day (2014)

A sports business drama, Draft Day goes behind the scenes on the day NFL teams choose the next wave of talent.

It's the morning of the 2014 National Football League draft. Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) is the General Manager of the Cleveland Browns, and has recently lost his father, a legendary and beloved former head coach. Sonny is also grappling with the news his girlfriend Ali Parker (Jennifer Garner), the team's salary cap expert, is unexpectedly pregnant.

With the Browns picking seventh and expected to select either linebacker Vontae Mack (Chadwick Boseman) or running back Ray Jennings (Arian Foster), Sonny accepts a trade to move up to the number one pick, giving up many future prospects in return. The Browns are now in a position to draft star college quarterback Bo Callahan (Josh Pence), which pleases team owner Anthony Molina (Frank Langella). But Sonny has misgivings, and asks his scouts to delve deep into Callahan's background. With his every move questioned by prima donna coach Vince Penn (Denis Leary), Sonny's day will feature many more twists and turns as he strives to reshape the team.

Directed by Ivan Reitman, Draft Day is a slick and glitzy look at the management side of professional sports. Undoubtedly constructed to portray NFL corporate life as a dynamic thrill ride, Sonny's day is probably an over-exaggeration of any sort of reality. But the film packs enough content to maintain strong interest for fans of sports business while completely sidestepping the NFL's hot button issues related to on-field concussions and off-field player perpetrated violence.

The plot piles on the hot potatoes on Sonny's plate. Not only did his father just die, but Sonny is also reviled for having had the temerity to fire his own dad a few years earlier. Mom Barb (Ellen Burstyn) shows up at the worst possible moment on draft day, with an urn full of ashes to dispose of. Owner Molina is threatening to fire Sonny unless he delivers a good headline, while coach Penn is strutting around undermining his own General Manager. Even Sonny's assistant is a first-day-on-the-job kid caught in the maelstrom.

And of course Ali is inconveniently pregnant, Sonny is preoccupied instead of thrilled, and their entire affair is the office's most open secret. At least no one brings up the 17 year age difference between Costner and Garner, nor Sonny's quite advanced age to tackle the rigours of first time fatherhood.

Through it all he has to engineer high stakes trades as the clock ticks on. For a drama mostly built on over-the-phone negotiations with other GMs, Reitman does a fine job maintaining plenty of tense energy, deploying fluid split screens to present both sides of every conversation as Sonny weaves a path towards his objectives.

Costner's performance is self contained and stoic, and Garner also adopts a rather cold stance in a male-dominated milieu. The rest of the characters populating the desks, offices and working the phones are barely defined beyond pithy summaries. The young college players at the centre of attention are also stock representations, Callahan the cocky quarterback, Mack the family man, and Jennings full of promise but with a shadow of scandal dimming his potential. 

Draft Day is all about wheeling and dealing under pressure, and picks about as many winners as losers. 

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Movie Review: White Nights (1985)

A dance drama, White Nights sets up an appealing Cold War premise but is more clunky than smooth in delivering basic plot points.

Celebrated ballet dancer Nikolai 'Kolya' Rodchenko (Mikhail Baryshnikov) defected to the west from the Soviet Union eight years ago. Now while on a flight to Tokyo with his publicist Anne Wyatt (Geraldine Page), an electrical fault forces the plane into an emergency landing at a Siberian military air base. Soviet Colonel Chaiko (Jerzy Skolimowski) seizes Kolya as a criminal and places him in the company of Raymond Greenwood (Gregory Hines), a tap dancer who defected from the United States to the USSR and then married his interpreter Darya (Isabella Rossellini).

Chaiko's plan is to repatriate Kolya and get him to perform again at the Kirov ballet in Leningrad as a Soviet propaganda victory. To this end Kolya's previous lover and dance partner Galina Ivanova (Helen Mirren) is deployed to convince him to recommit to his homeland. But Kolya will not give up on freedom, and builds a strong bond with Raymond and Darya to try and plot an escape.

Directed by Taylor Hackford, White Nights earns points for an imaginative story, tapping into the Cold War's cultural front as well as Baryshnikov's own real-life story (he defected in 1974). And the quest to integrate ballet into a dramatic narrative works much better here than in Herbert Ross' hopelessly melodramatic The Turning Point.

The title refers to the constant daylight during the summer months in Russia's northern reaches, and the first half of the film, set in the harsh Siberian landscape, is a surreal waking nightmare for Kolya. From the crash landing back in the country from which he escaped, to tangling with Chaiko and then finally meeting Raymond, a black American confined to a vaudeville stage in Siberia, Hackford adroitly creates a world standing on its head for the sophisticated New York-based dance superstar.

The juxtaposition of Raymond and Kolya is at the the heart of the film. Other than providing an opportunity for ballet and tap dancing to share the centre stage spotlight, Raymond offers an alternative view of the American Dream as seen by a black man who outgrew the cute tap dancing kid label and was forced into military service in a war he did not believe in. Raymond's disillusionment festered into a full grown abandonment of his homeland, although his espousal of communist beliefs is never portrayed as anything other than shallow.

Most of the film's other details don't work too well. The sputtering memory of a relationship between Kolya and Galina is stranded in a repetitive loop, and the thriller elements that creep into the final act are unnecessary and quite unconvincing. The performances are constrained by Baryshnikov and Hines, dancers mostly masquerading as actors. And in her first American film, Isabella Rossellini struggles in a bland role.

White Nights maintains sufficient forward momentum to make it across the Cold War demarcation line, but much like a night full of light, not all the elements fit quite right.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Movie Review: In A Lonely Place (1950)

A murder mystery and romantic drama, In A Lonely Place mixes genres with stunning success as it delves into a complex psychological profile.

In Los Angeles, Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart) is a short-tempered Hollywood script writer going through a dry spell. His agent Mel Lippman (Art Smith) urges him to read a popular book and convert it to a screenplay. Instead Dixon invites hatcheck girl Mildred (Martha Stewart), who has already read the book, to his apartment to tell him the story. She leaves after midnight.

Mildred is murdered later that night, and detective Brub Nicolai (Frank Lovejoy), who served with Dixon in the war, and Captain Lochner (Carl Benton Reid) question Dixon. His nonchalant behaviour does not erase suspicions, but his neighbour Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame), an aspiring actress, provides an alibi. Dix and Laurel start an intense love affair, reawakening his writing creativity. But the murder investigation drags on, and Laurel starts to fear Dix's fiery temper, suspecting he is capable of extreme violence.

Captain Lochner: Considering that you've never met Mr. Steele, you pay quite a bit of attention to him.
Laurel: Hmm-hmm. I have at that.
Lochner: Do you usually give such attention to your neighbours?
Laurel: No.
Lochner: Were you interested in Mr. Steele because he's a celebrity?
Laurel: No, not at all. I noticed him because he looked interesting - I like his face.

Directed by Nicholas Ray and written by Edmund H. North, In A Lonely Place uses a murder case as a catalyst for a tempestuous romance. A thematic film noir, neither the murder nor the romance are necessarily at the centre of the story. Rather, this is a dazzling examination of one man's troubled psyche, likely damaged during the war. Dixon Steele is an unforgettable character, in turns brilliant, caustic, and amorous. But his fury is never far from the surface, and provides a dangerous and destructive source of energy.

Mel Lippmann (talking to Laurel about Dix): You knew he was dynamite - he has to explode sometimes! Years ago, I tried to make him go and see a psychiatrist. I thought he'd kill me! Always violent. Well it's as much a part of him as the colour of his eyes, the shape of his head. He's Dix Steele. And if you want him, you've gotta take it all, the good with the bad. I've taken it for 20 years and I'd do it again.

The film generates magnificent menace by not revealing Dixon's guilt or innocence in Mildred's murder. He is the only one who knows, and it's up to the world around him, from the cops to his agent and his new lover, to react and draw their conclusions. Instead, Dixon's duality occupies the core of the film: he is capable of extreme rage at the slightest provocation, just as efficiently as he can express kindness towards a has-been actor (Robert Warwick), romance Laurel, and immerse himself in creative work.

Captain Lochner: You're told that the girl you were with last night was found in Benedict Canyon, murdered. Dumped from a moving car. What's your reaction? Shock? Horror? Sympathy? No - just petulance at being questioned. A couple of feeble jokes. You puzzle me, Mr. Steele.
Dixon: Well, I grant you, the jokes could've been better, but I don't see why the rest should worry you - that is, unless you plan to arrest me on lack of emotion.

Dixon is both black and white, with plenty of in-between and fast shades of grey, a perfect conundrum at the heart of a film noir. Ray makes excellent use of close-ups, and the crisp black and white Burnett Guffey cinematography sparks the simple but cluttered sets to life.

The final third of the film nudges the perspective ever so slightly towards Laurel's dilemma. Entranced by her man, she is also frightened by his violent and impetuous tendencies. The risks and rewards of sticking by Dix are both potentially great, and navigating a path towards happiness will be extraordinarily difficult, even for an exceptionally resourceful and calm woman.

Dixon: You know, you're out of your mind - how can anyone like a face like this? Look at it...[leans in for a kiss]
Laurel Gray: I said I liked it - I didn't say I wanted to kiss it.

Humphrey Bogart delivers one of his career best performances as a man defined and dominated by his disposition and victimized by breakneck mood transformations. He is matched by Gloria Grahame in top form, an icy cool neighbour and torrid lover capable of dissecting just about every situation with an acerbic stare.

Dixon, pondering a line he wants to use in his script: I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me.

In A Lonely Place is a story of personal turmoil crawling into the open, charm, pugnacity and talent coalescing into a combustible combination.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Movie Review: Before I Wake (2016)

A suspense drama with some horror moments, Before I Wake explores deep-seated grief as a powerful force.

Eight year old orphan Cody Morgan (Jacob Tremblay) has had a troubled life, and social worker Natalie Friedman (Annabeth Gish) places him with newly approved foster parents Jessie and Mark Hobson (Kate Bosworth and Thomas Jane). The Hobsons are still recovering from the accidental drowning death of their own young son Sean, and Jessie is attending a grief support group.

They soon discover that Cody loves butterflies, but is fearful of falling asleep and consumes stimulants to try and stay awake, believing the "Canker Man" is out to get him. When Cody does fall asleep, remarkable things happen in the Hobson household, with butterflies and other compelling visions appearing. But then really bad and evil events are also triggered by Cody's nightmares, and soon the lives of Jessie and Mark lives are thrown into turmoil.

Directed and co-written by Mike Flanagan, Before I Wake is a fulfilling serving of horror as commentary on psychological scars. The film features a satisfactory number of bump-in-the-night moments, chills and scares, but is also unafraid to turn on the lights, bring in some moments of joy and delve into the human condition when drowning in emotional anguish.

Behind the creepy images of dead people coming to life, dreams and nightmares invading reality and butterflies either instilling beauty or shrouding menace, the film works as a metaphor for human duality, the capacity within each family member to add unbridled joy or devastating anguish. Fear of the unknown, letting go of the past and the insidious damage caused by harboring blame and resentment are other themes percolating within the narrative.

The cast features plenty of quality. Jacob Tremblay is immediately likable in one of his earliest screen roles (Before I Wake was filmed in 2013 and languished due to studio financial troubles). Tremblay conveys the innocence of a child still hopeful of finding happiness in life and effortlessly combines his character's extreme intellect with anxious fragility. Kate Bosworth and Thomas Jane are sturdy as the parents struggling against the cracks appearing in their relationship due to their profound loss.

Before I Wake ends with a strong sense of purpose and courage, but also just errs on the side of over-tidiness in resolving all the emotional threads. Dreams are internal conversations worth having, but a flutter of mystery is always welcome.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Movie Review: The Whole Truth (2016)

A basic courtroom drama, The Whole Truth is shallow and fairly rudimentary.

In Louisiana, defence attorney Richard Ramsay (Keanu Reeves) is representing seventeen year old Mike Lassiter (Gabriel Basso), accused of stabbing his businessman father Boone (Jim Belushi) to death. Richard is a family friend of the Lassiters, including Boone's widow Loretta (Renée Zellweger), but Mike refused to say anything ahead of the trial, hampering defence preparations.

The trial starts and prosecutor Leblanc (Jim Klock) has a strong case, with Mike having been found over his father's dead body and all but admitting to the murder. But in surprise testimony by Loretta and Mike himself, a more complex picture of events starts to emerge. Richard's inexperienced but perceptive assistant Janelle Brady (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) starts to suspect there is more to the case than is being revealed in court.

It's only a better-than-average cast that keeps The Whole Truth away from television movie-of-the-week territory, and even then the film barely proves worthy of any other designation. Directed by Courtney Hunt and written by Nicholas Kazan, the first-draft level script sets up for one big revelation and another twist in the tail, but forgets all the basics along the way.

The courtroom proceedings are sloppy in the extreme, testimony is accepted without corroboration or evidence, both lawyers awful in representing their case. The script is more interested in placing first Loretta and then Mike on the witness stand with no foreknowledge as to what they will say, and the flashback recreations, as well as the dull narration by Ramsay, are of no help: they change according to each subsequent unreliable witness.

It all leads to a rushed and awkwardly explained final curve intended to shock but in reality and as presented, makes little sense.

Keanu Reeves is more bland and blank than usual, his narration exceptionally unsuitable, aiming and totally missing a noir vibe. Zellweger and Mbatha-Raw fare better, but both their roles are underwritten. Belushi boorishly trundles through the flashback scenery as Boone, amplifying the deserved-victim designation. The rest of the cast members struggle to step over the amateur bar.

The Whole Truth is courtroom light, and deserves to be cited for contempt due to under preparation.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Movie Review: White Boy Rick (2018)

A biographical crime drama, White Boy Rick delves into lives destroyed by poverty and drugs with a patchy plot and uneven execution.

It's 1984, and in crime-ridden inner city Detroit, Richard Wershe (Matthew McConaughey) is an uneducated and poor single dad making ends meet trading guns at the margins of the law. He promises his 14 year old son Rick (Richie Merritt) that he will one day open a chain of video stores, but that day never comes. Meantime, daughter Dawn (Bel Powley) is already addicted to drugs, with a crack cocaine epidemic sweeping through the city. Richard's parents Ray and Vera (Bruce Dern and Piper Laurie) live across the street but are of little help.

Rick picks up his father's salesman skills and starts trading guns to local drug-running black gangsters, earning the title White Boy Rick and attracting the attention of FBI Agents Alex Snyder (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Frank Byrd (Rory Cochrane). They pressure him into informing on his criminal associates, leading to a cycle of turmoil and violence for both Rick and his dad.

Based on a true story, White Boy Rick breathes deeply from the foul air of urban decay and the flawed humanity it spawns. This is a story of place as much as it is a cautionary tale about characters. The gutted-out streets of Detroit, by 1984 a soulless city seemingly abandoned of all that makes a healthy community, are prime territory for the rule of gangs, drugs and guns. As much as Richard and Rick believe they can do something different and better, the odds are firmly stacked against them.

Director Yann Demange places the sins-of-the-father theme at the heart of the film. Young Rick has no role model other than a shifty dad whose occupation is to buy guns from shady gun show dealers, attach basement-manufactured add-ons, and sell the weapons at a profit to whoever is willing to buy from the trunk of his car. Not exactly a foundation for success, and sure enough young Rick is soon perfecting his dad's formula, with less misgivings about who his customers are.

At least Richard cares about his children and does try to be a decent dad, but he is also hampered by a lack of opportunity, talent and education.

Outside of the immediate familial bond, the film noticeably sputters. The gang members are provided minimal definition, and the film bungles all of Rick's brushes with the FBI. Exactly what he did for the authorities and the value of the information he provided remain obscure details tripped over by a script more concerned with people than events.

Matthew McConaughey brings a creepy intensity to the role of Richard Wershe, and whenever he is on the screen the film threatens to become more about the father than the son. In his film debut Richie Merritt is serviceable, but for long periods the purportedly central character of Rick is sidelined as an observer and a casualty of his environment. More sad than powerful or memorable, White Boy Rick crawls along the slimy underbelly of the American dream.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Movie Review: Under The Tuscan Sun (2003)

A romantic drama with hints of humour, Under The Tuscan Sun features beautiful scenery and a subtle central performance, but otherwise settles into routine rhythms.

San Francisco-based author Frances Mayes (Diane Lane) is shocked to learn that her husband has been cheating. For emotional support she leans on her best friend Patti (Sandra Oh), a lesbian in a seemingly happy relationship with Grace (Kate Walsh). After a painful divorce Frances reluctantly accepts Patti's gift to go on a tour of Tuscany. When the tour stops in the small town of Cortona, Frances spots a 300 year old villa for sale and buys it on a whim, deciding to settle in the area.

She meets the locals, including kindly real estate agent Martini (Vincent Riotta) and eccentric aging actress Katherine (Lindsay Duncan), and hires a group of Polish immigrants, including the young Pawel (Pawel Szajda), to fix the place up. Frances snaps out of her loneliness when she meets the stunningly suave Marcello (Raoul Bova), while Patti shows up for a visit and Pawel embarks on his own romantic adventure.

Written and directed by Audrey wells, Under The Tuscan Sun is very loosely based on the memoir by Frances Mayes. The film mixes plenty of sun-kissed travelogue-style scenery with an understated story about coping with the aftermath of divorce, loneliness, and looking for love in middle age. The film does little that is original or unexpected, but within the confines of its ambitions, this is a polished, well executed and warm experience.

Much of the credit goes to an effervescent Diane Lane, who projects a range of emotions from the emotional gut punch of losing a seemingly perfect life to the giddy excitement of finding new romance, often with magnificent subtlety. She plays a victim, a seductress, a friend, a lover and a mentor, all with a rare authenticity.

Once the film settles down in Italy the plot consists of mildly amusing episodes mixing local culture with gradual emotional recovery, of course paralleled by the house repairs. The locals are all either friendly or traditionally stereotypical, and the landscape vistas and local village festivals are never less than postcard perfect. The plight of immigrants, traditional family values and the legendary silkiness of Italian lovers are among the marginal themes touched upon lightly by Wells' inoffensive script.

And that ultimately is where Under The Tuscan Sun lands. Pretty to look at, anchored by an actress in wondrous form, and without a sharp edge in sight.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

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