Under the Tuscan Sun (Blu-ray)
Directed by Audrey Wells
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 113 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, 2.0 Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 20.00
Release Date: July 3, 2012
Review Date: July 6, 2012
After a devastating divorce from her philandering husband, Frances Mayes (Diane Lane) takes up her friend Patti’s (Sandra Oh) offer to take a tour of Tuscany, and finds herself feeling fated to purchase a rundown villa there. While a crew of Polish contractors bring the house to something close to livable conditions, Frances begins rebuilding her own life by taking up writing again, making new friends around the village, accepting the pregnant Patti’s company when her lover abandons her, and finding her own new love in the person of the gorgeous Marcello (Raoul Bova). But while things appear to be moving smoothly toward a new, fulfilling chapter of her life, Frances learns that even new starts can have heartbreaking bumps to contend with.
Though director Audrey Wells’ screenplay is based on the best-selling book by Frances Mayes, many of the characters in the film and much of the plot are fictionalized and not based on the life or experiences of the writer at all. That may account for the fairy tale quality of the two love interests for Frances in the film and the genuinely superficial handling of the real men of quality in her life: the realtor Martini (Vincent Riotta) with whom she shares a special connection and the young contractor Pawel (Pawel Szajda) whom she plays Miss Fix-It for in a Romeo and Juliet-style subplot that’s utterly predictable. Wells does a wonderful job capturing the flavors of the Italian countryside where so much of the story takes place: the vistas are spectacular, there’s a montage of cooking scenes where Frances prepares lavish dinners for her “family,” and the local fauna (including snakes, scorpions, owls) seems part and parcel of the area. But she’s less successful plotting and sustaining believable stories for the characters. The outlandishly ostentatious local character Katherine (Lindsay Duncan) needed far more development but is sacrificed in the pursuit of the expected and pedestrian love affair story that holds nothing fresh at all, and the other two Polish contractors would appear to have wonderful backstories that don’t get told either.
Diane Lane approaches the romantic and personal clichés of the piece with utter conviction and is completely winning, holding the film’s tenuous plots together through sheer force of her expressive talent. Lindsay Duncan’s Auntie Mame-like personality exudes much spirit in the movie but seems like a gaudy bauble on a Christmas tree without much reason for being there except for a cheap effect. Vincent Riotta brings a great nobility and a charming presence to the movie as the generous, helpful Martini, important in a movie where unfaithful men are somewhat in abundance. Pawel Szajda is another amiable character and does some fancy flag tossing in a colorful sequence where he tries to prove to his love’s father that he’s a man of worth. Sandra Oh delivers her usual, effective deadpan character and is always a welcome presence while Raoul Bova, a huge star in Italy, produces the expected sparks of the too-good-to-be-true Italian lover.
The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is faithfully rendered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Apart from a few softer than expected shots, the film is a feast for the eyes with superb sharpness, outstandingly brilliant color saturation, and very realistic and appealing flesh tones. Contrast has been perfectly dialed in to produce captivating imagery that’s near-reference quality. The film has been divided into 14 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is surprisingly rich for a romantic comedy-drama. There is plenty of use of the surround channels for ambience including occasional pans through the soundstage, and the storm sequence fairly early in the movie will shake the rafters with its tremendous explosions of bass and authentic booming throughout the soundstage. Christophe Beck’s score also gets a terrifically expansive flow through the fronts and rears enveloping the viewer superbly. Dialogue has been expertly recorded and placed in the center channel.
The audio commentary is provided by director Audrey Wells who speaks meaningfully and well about her intentions with the film and relates anecdotes throughout about the mishaps and memorable moments of their four-month shoot. Fans of the movie will really enjoy what she has to say about making the movie.
All of the video features are presented in 480i.
“Tuscany 101” is a 9 ½-minute EPK featurette featuring sound bites from director Audrey Wells, stars Diane Lane, Sandra Oh, and Pawel Szajda and topics such as the location shooting and work hours common for Italians.
There are three deleted scenes which can be watched individually or in one 2 ½ minute group.
The disc includes promo trailers for Who Framed Roger Rabbit and The Odd Life of Timothy Green.
3/5 (not an average)
A sort of Eat Pray Love for a generation earlier, Under the Tuscan Sun is a fantasy-laden romantic comedy-drama which offers exquisite acting and some picturesque Italian vistas which look and sound simply magnificent in high definition. Those who enjoy this kind of cinematic wishful thinking will find Under the Tuscan Sun right up their alley.