Fri, July 19

Good humor, colorful characters come alive <i>Under the Tuscan Sun</i>

Franco Biciocchi/Touchstone/All rights reserved

RAOUL BOVA shows Diane Lane the signs in Under the Tuscan Sun.

Frances finds the owner, the realtor and the purchasing couple negotiating the final price. When Frances expresses interest, a bidding war starts; the other couple withdraws and the house is hers! She has no idea why she has done it, but there was a passion there that she found irresistible.

The realtor helps her get started in hiring craftsmen and contractors to renovate the old villa to its former majesty, with Frances's own ideas on modernizing and improving.

She gets there eventually, befriending the workmen and various people in town. When she takes a break to visit Rome, she meets a young man who arouses her sexuality after the long period of abstinence since her divorce.

All in all, Frances has no trouble adjusting to her new life in this foreign country. She learns the customs and learns to cook Tuscany style. She starts to write again. Life is not perfect for Frances, especially her love life, but she is happy and fulfilled because she is making a positive difference in the lives of people around her.

When Frances tells her friend that she feels the house needs family and children, he advises patience. In the end, most of her wishes come true, directly or indirectly.

Under the Tuscan Sun is a study in metaphor. Frances buys a house that is in a condition similar to hers: run down, depressed and aged. As the house takes shape under her direction, her mental state improves and both she and the house are revitalized together.

Under the Tuscan Sun is loaded with good humor and colorful characters, but it is Diane Lane's Frances that brings it home a winner. All the supporting players are excellent, especially Lindsay Duncan as Katherine, a flamboyant American ex-actress (protégé of Federico Fellini) who befriends Frances and coaches her in the way of Italian — principally Tuscan — mores and customs.

Credit to the director Audrey Wells for giving us the beautiful Tuscan scenery without diminishing the strength of the story. Some of the resolutions may be a little too pat, but this is a thoroughly enjoyable movie.