Tea With Mussolini (1999)

FRANCO ZEFFIRELLI

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB

Italy/United Kingdom, 1999.  , , , .  Screenplay by , based on the autobiography by Franco Zeffirelli.  Cinematography by David Watkin.  Produced by , , .  Music by , .  Production Design by , .  Costume Design by , , .  Film Editing by .  

Lovely period piece by Franco Zeffirelli, based on his autobiographical novel about growing up among four British women living in Italy. Abandoned by his father who never married his mother and never claimed his son for his own, young Luca is thrown at the mercy of his father’s kindly secretary (Joan Plowright), who takes the boy in and raises him. When he’s a teenager, Luca is forced to take action and protect Plowright and her best friends (Judi Dench and Lily Tomlin among them) when World War II is declared and Italy wants all of its British subjects out.  Cher is excellent in her first movie since 1995’s Faithful as a gorgeous playgirl who is also Luca’s first puppy love. It’s not a movie for the easily distracted, it hems and haws over its actresses a bit too much to be consistently interesting, but for those who are fans of anybody in this movie they will certainly be pleased. Maggie Smith is especially delicious as a stubborn British snob who insists that, thanks to her having once had tea with Il Duce, she and her friends are completely beyond harm.

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