Up at the Villa
When it comes to fascism, love conquers all.
This period piece takes place amidst the gossip of aristocrats in fascist Italy, where the characters search for freedom, passion, love and self-identity. This is a straightforward tale, and much like a good play, it has plenty of witty dialogue and a well-paced story. The film opens with a bit of history, but we soon enter a world of lust, death, blackmail and escape. It's an odd love story, to be sure, but it works. The chemistry between a beautiful English aristocrat (Kristin Scott Thomas) and an American playboy (Sean Penn) lights up the screen.
Scott Thomas and Penn are brilliant together, utterly believable as romantic partners. Thomas' elegant demeanor combined with Penn's grittier charms will certainly keep audiences interested. Anne Bancroft's over-the-top princess is full of zest and wit, much like her Miss Havisham was in the recent remake of "Great Expectations."
Philip Haas brings together a rich and sensuous blend of settings and characters. He skillfully combines the lushness of a Merchant-Ivory film with bristly, more muscular storytelling.
Up at the cineplex, you're unlikely to find more compelling fare.