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Up at the Villa (2000)
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Review Date: May 01, 2000
Director: Philip Haas
Writer: Belinda Haas
Producers: David Brown, Geoff Stier
Actors:
Kristin Scott Thomas
Sean Penn
Anne Bancroft
Plot:
A rich, snooty woman living the "good life" in Florence, Italy, during the late 1930s, suddenly finds herself caught up in a messy love triangle involving a wealthy, older gentleman, a younger, more abrasive American, and an Austrian refugee. When a murder takes place, the politics of the day take over, and the film switches its romance gears into those featuring intrigue.
Critique:
This film is full of pretty pictures, nice decorations and beautiful scenery, but lacks any palpable romance, tension or chemistry. It's just sort of "there". It's a film which never really bored me at any point, it was like being a voyeur at a rich guy's party, but never really managed to get me excited about anything either. Sean Penn, who has always been one of favorite actors, despite continually bashing the craft that consistently feeds him, is actually pretty so-so in this film, underplaying the part and appearing strangely out of place. Of course, Kirsten Scott Thomas invented these movies, so she certainly fit her role like a glove, but unfortunately her character, who is the lead in the film, doesn't really provide the audience with any tangible reasons to like her. I mean, she's obviously very pretty but am I supposed to feel for a lady that dicks around with every Tom, Dick and Arnold, while making decisions on her life based primarily around finances? Sure, the film offers some insight as to the deep-rooted misappropriations of values which these people apparently subscribed to at the time, but I could only invest so much of myself into folks with whom I obviously have zero in common (besides the fact that every guy seemed to want to dick Kirsten Scott Thomas). The romance level is also pretty thin in this film, with only a tiny shred of it showing up between Penn and Thomas, a little more in Thomas' relationship with Davies, but generally non-existent.

Of course, the film turns into more of a "political" game during its second half, but none of that really interested me much either. No real tension, just a little politics here and there, nothing we haven't seen before. And when is Jeremy Davies finally going to play a character different from every single one that he portrays in all of his other movies? Dude, it's pretty obvious that you could play the "shy, nervous, twitchy guy", but how about taking a shot at a role with a little more range? The ending of the movie is also pretty weak and foreseeable, with much of what goes on, predictable and tidy. Having said all that, I did enjoy looking at this film, the scenery, the actors and the wonderful city of Florence, which were all quite spectacular. I also loved Anne Bancroft's performance, which let her chew up and spit out most of the scenery around her. Great job, Mrs. Brooks! As well as Derek Jacobi's comical turn as Lucky Leadbetter. And yes, Scott Thomas does deliver a decent showing, but somehow it all seems to be a little "old hat" with her. This film might ultimately entertain those content enough to sit and watch some really pretty and pretentious people prance around in lush surroundings with little more than a simple story to tell. But on the whole, the film didn't manage to entertain me enough to recommend it to any of my friends. And yes, dear reader...I consider you my friend (fluttering eyelashes) :)
(c) 2016 Berge Garabedian
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