Up At The Villa review

Based on a novella by Somerset Maugham and set in Italy under the heel of Fascism, this period drama suggests an eventful blend of Merchant Ivory costumed decorum with a franker sexuality and a sharp political backdrop. And the pairing of Kristin Scott Thomas and Sean Penn (frosty Englishwoman versus American firebrand) is an intriguing one.

So many possibilities. And such a lacklustre disappointment. Scott Thomas plays an English widow, living off friends in a Florentine villa while warily contemplating a new husband. Penn's raffish American zooms in, only to send her panicking into the arms of a charming Austrian refugee (Davies), whom she sleeps with out of pity, only to reject him, leading to predictably disastrous consequences.

With the earlier Angels And Insects (also starring Scott Thomas), director Philip Haas proved that you could make something fascinatingly different out of petticoats and class snobbery. But here, with his star at her most irritating, he simply sends you to sleep. This, despite the promise, is stiflingly dull.

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