A gauzy look at the formative years of an Italian boy who's raised by a gaggle of expatriate women against the backdrop of WWII. 1935: The illegitimate son of a local businessman who wants little to do with him, Luca (played as a child by Charlie
Lucas, and as a teenager by Baird Wallace) is taken in by Mary Wallace (Joan Plowright), an older English woman living in a local pensione. Mary's friends pitch in and help care for the child, taking him to school and to museums, teaching him to love literature and firmly inculcating him with steadfast notions of right and wrong. His mentors include artistic Arabella (Judi Dench); Elsa (Cher), a flighty, fabulously wealthy American who knew Luca's late mother; and lesbian archeologist Georgie (Lily Tomlin). The self-deluded queen bee of the expatriate community, Lady Hester Random
(Maggie Smith), refuses to believe that rapidly changing European politics will affect their lives and even wangles assurance from Il Duce Mussolini (Claudio Spadara) himself that no harm will befall them. Needless to say, history catches up with them, and their lives change dramatically before the war ends. The culmination of director Franco Zeffirelli's lifelong desire to explore his own childhood, this semi-autobiographical film falls prey to a misconception that afflicts many reality-based projects. It proceeds from the notion that if a story is true, it doesn't have to be worked out as rigorously as fiction... after all, that's the way it was. And while the divas make their characters hugely entertaining, they're also such high profile actresses in such a soft-edged film that it's hard to actually worry about what's to become of them. Elsa may be a Jew in Fascist Italy, but she's also Cher: Her worst tribulation is that she has to go out without proper make-up.
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- Released: 1999
- Rating: PG
- Review: A gauzy look at the formative years of an Italian boy who's raised by a gaggle of expatriate women against the backdrop of WWII. 1935: The illegitimate son of a local businessman who wants little to do with him, Luca (played as a child by Charlie Lucas, a… (more)