It's a shame that LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA was not more of a box-office success. It had much going for it: well-known stars, a literate script by a literate writer, and sensational locations beautifully photographed. Then why did it fail to deliver patrons? Probably the fault lies in the
theme, mental retardation, which was alternately depressing and more depressing. Mimieux is 26, but her mental age remains at 10 because of an accident. Her mother, de Havilland, takes her on a grand tour of Europe in the hopes of brightening the young woman's life. Sullivan, de Havilland's
husband, thinks that Mimieux would be better off in one of those places where the inmates get three squares a day, a cot, and some minor therapy. The two women visit Rome, then Florence, cities that look like postcards come alive. In Florence, Mimieux is noticed by Hamilton, a dashing young
Florentine (and when was Hamilton ever not dashing?) who immediately falls for the gentle, sweet Mimieux and asks her to marry him. This puts de Havilland squarely on the horns of a dilemma until she reckons, why not? It just might work--especially since Hamilton is hardly an Einstein himself.
Neither family is hurting for money, and de Havilland thinks that the young people can be supported by the parents and that they will probably have normal children. Sullivan is against the idea and would prefer that Mimieux go away somewhere--but his conviction may spring in part from his desire
to revive the relationship he had with his wife before their daughter's accident. Brazzi, Hamilton's father, takes somewhat more than an in-law stance toward the comely de Havilland, despite his very-married state. Eventually, de Havilland tells Brazzi of her daughter's mental condition, but no
one seems concerned, and the two kids are happily married. Mother de Havilland leaves the church confident that she has done the right thing.
De Havilland's performance is a small gem (and she stayed off the screen for three years between this and her next film--what a loss for the public!). Mimieux invests her part with a childlike quality rather than an over-the-top depiction of someone who is unable to communicate and interact with
others. The film itself is touching, despite its theme. MGM might have made this happen with a different title and marketing strategy, as there is much to recommend the finished product--including a first-time-ever look at the priceless treasures of the Uffizi Museum.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: It's a shame that LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA was not more of a box-office success. It had much going for it: well-known stars, a literate script by a literate writer, and sensational locations beautifully photographed. Then why did it fail to deliver patrons? Pro… (more)