Up At The Villa

Bloodless and disconcertingly cool adaptation of W. Somerset Maughm's high-class soap opera about the tangled affairs of English expatriates in pre-WWII Italy. The year is 1938: Mary Panton (Kristin Scott Thomas) is a beautiful young widow living in a borrowed villa outside Florence. She's the talk of the expat community, which is ruled by the steely Princess...read more

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Bloodless and disconcertingly cool adaptation of W. Somerset Maughm's high-class soap opera about the tangled affairs of English expatriates in pre-WWII Italy. The year is 1938: Mary Panton (Kristin Scott Thomas) is a beautiful young widow living

in a borrowed villa outside Florence. She's the talk of the expat community, which is ruled by the steely Princess San Ferdinando (Anne Bancroft); the princess's wealth and social position are irrefutable evidence of how profitable a shrewdly calculated marriage can be. Mary, whose last marriage

left her penniless and heartbroken, is being wooed by wealthy, stuffy but good-hearted Sir Edgar Smith (James Fox), who's 25 years her senior and has known Mary since she was a child; she likes but doesn't love him, and is sorely tempted to opt for the security of marriage to him. While

considering Sir Edgar's proposal, Mary makes a fine mess of things, getting involved in an unsuitable affair that leads to a potentially scandalous suicide — and leaves her reputation in the hands of American adventurer Rowley Flint (Sean Penn). Adding to her predicament, Mary runs afoul of

local Fascist functionary Beppino Leopardi (Massimo Ghini), whose crush on her could easily turn to fury if she fails to play her cards wisely. Though beautiful, Scott Thomas is a peculiarly remote heroine, icy above and beyond the demands of her well-bred character; the opposite is true of the

flamboyant Bancroft, who's perpetually on the verge of self-parody as the extravagant, meddling princess whose naughty tale of an impoverished lover she once entertained inspires the reckless act that imperils Mary's future. All this is frightfully foolish stuff, even with the added gravity lent

by the impending war and anti-Semitic Fascist purges; the surprise is how tame and passionless it all seems, particularly after director Philip Haas's fevered ANGELS AND INSECTS.

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  • Released: 2000
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: Bloodless and disconcertingly cool adaptation of W. Somerset Maughm's high-class soap opera about the tangled affairs of English expatriates in pre-WWII Italy. The year is 1938: Mary Panton (Kristin Scott Thomas) is a beautiful young widow living in a bor… (more)

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