"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] , 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] ), 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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