Up at the Villa

Bomb Rating: 

If we had as many rabid dogs in America as they do loveless marriages in Europe, we would have to evacuate the country. This film takes place in Florence and Tuscany during the rise of Fascism just prior to the beginning of World War II. But even more important than that, Mary Panton (Kristin Scott Thomas) must decide whether to enter a loveless marriage with the wealthy Edgar Swift (James Fox).

Given the range of emotional expressiveness of Brits like Scott Thomas, I'm not exactly clear on how to distinguish between loving and loveless marriages, though I suppose that can be considered a moot point. Mary's decision is complicated by her friend, Princess San Ferdinando (Anne Bancroft) who says she should go for it and by Rowley Flint (Sean Penn), who has this glint in his eye like he's out hunting for chicks looking for a final fling before they enter into loveless marriages.

Instead of sleeping with Rowley, Mary does a one-nighter with an impoverished musician (Jeremy Davies) who plays violin very, very badly. He seems sweet and Mary decides to give him the best present of all -- herself. The only problem is that the violin player returns, thinking that this is the beginning of a long-term relationship, not realizing that women like Mary who hobnob in high society don't shack up with bad violin players. They just sleep with them and hope they disappear. Unfortunately, the violin player shows Mary a thing or two about trampling all over people's feelings and he shoots himself dead.

Poor Mary now has the problem of the loveless marriage hanging over her, the fact that Rowley wants in her pants, and this dead guy at the foot of her bed. Oh, there's also Fascism, which threatens to rear its ugly head at any minute and declare rich foreigners and wannabe rich foreigners bad for Italy. The plot is about as enthralling as boiling water, and so is the acting. The death of this poor man is little more than a device to help Mary realize that she's in need of some excitement and that marrying the old, rich guy would be really boring.

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