My House in Umbria

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					"My House in Umbria," released by HBO Studios in 2003 certainly walks
like a chick flick and talks like a chick flick. It's set in the
beautiful Umbrian countryside of Italy, thereby strongly resembling
chick flicks set in Tuscany, or Provence, or wherever. And it stars the
magnifico Dame Maggie Smith,Downton Abbey - Series 1 [DVD], a younger
woman here, who can carry any movie, let alone a chick flick, on her
own.

Smith plays Mrs. Emily Delahunty, nicely-fixed English romance novelist,
passing her life in the peaceful Umbrian countryside, with an overcooked
outfit for every day of the week. However, she takes the train into
Milan monthly to shop. As the picture opens, she's just catching that
train, getting acquainted with her compartment mates. But a bomb
shatters the peace, and when the smoke's cleared, each of her
compartment mates has lost their nearest and dearest. An elderly English
general, played by noted comedian Ronnie BarkerThe Ronnie Barker
Ultimate Collection [DVD], has lost his only child, a daughter, and his
son-in-law. The young German, Werner, has lost his girlfriend. And the
child, Aimee, has lost her mother and father. So, after the hospital
releases them all on the same day, Mrs. Delahunty scoops them all up and
takes them to her villa to recover, in mind and body. Former Italian
heart throb Giancarlo Giannini Seven Beauties [DVD] [Region 1] [US
Import] [NTSC], plays the Italian police detective who comes around now
and then investigating the bomb. Timothy Spall Wide Sargasso Sea , plays
Mrs. Delehunty's reliable Man Friday. And Chris CooperAdaptation [DVD]
[2003], plays Aimee's uncle, estranged since before her birth from his
sister: he's a puritanical academic. (Do they really make such people?
I've sure never met one).

So, aside from the fact that the movie opens with a spurt of bloody
violence, how else does it differ from your average chick flick? To
begin with, it's based on a novella by William Trevor, an admired high-
brow (Love and Summer) Irish author resident in England. His work is
mysterious, threatening; never soothing. The telescript is by well-known
playwright Hugh Whitemore,(The Gathering Storm [DVD] [2002]), distinctly
high-brow; doubt that he's ever written anything even slightly chicky.
And let's look at the film itself. Mrs. Delehunty is the product of an
abused childhood, nor was her young adulthood any too healthy. She
drinks quite a bit, as the English sometimes do, morning, noon and
night, as it happens. (Some of what she does might not have been done by
a sober woman.) And her (always charming) drunkenness does upset Aimee's
supposedly straight-laced uncle. Well, really. But the movie does come
with a happy tear-jerker of an ending. Still, is it a chick flick? Not
merely, not entirely.

				
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posted:2/24/2012
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