Il Destino

Under the Tuscan Sun is a film about rebuilding a life. It's also the penultimate chick flick, getting knee deep into relationships, trust, and the nature of happiness.

I am reminded a lot of Only You, in having an American woman travel to Italy in a shaky emotional space. This time, we have Diane Lane escaping the fallout from divorce back in San Francisco. And instead of a madcap romp about the Italian countryside, she fairly promptly buys herself a place (in Tuscany, of course) and settles down to fixing it up, and mixing it up with the locals.

I won't go much further than that - the film reads like an essay on what's really important in life and how people perceive issues that don't need to be there. These lessons, and humor that comes with them, are gentle. I'm sure some will find this film a little trite (maybe even a lot - some people!), but for me, the emotional turns are fairly well earned, the ending in particular (though some foreshadowing there was a bit too obvious).

Diane Lane is wonderful as Frances, spilling a warmth of humanity on the screen. I was surprised and pleased, even, to see Sandra Oh do as well in a more dramatic role, so unlike all broad comedy she's done. While some of these characters are familiar stereotypes, there are a lot of unique details sprinkled around to keep them interesting.

Under the Tuscan Sun is adapted from an autobiographical book of the same name. Or perhaps, "inspired by" would be more appropriate. The script is the exception that proves the rule that real life makes poor narrative film. It's good, but the framework seems derived from a list of facts from the book, and most of the events and details are completely fictional.

I am reminded of the opening of the aforementioned Only You, where schoolteacher Marisa Tomei writes the Italian word for destiny on the chalkboard. Destiny and how you create your own was very much a theme of that film. You could say this film says the same thing, more or less - but more effectively.

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