Thanks to Bob for making it available from his vast collection of movies!
Synopsis: Based in part on his autobiography, director Franco Zeffirelli's Tea With Mussolini is a drama with comic accents about a group of British and American travelers on an indefinite visit to Italy in 1935, when, as one character puts it, "Mussolini was just a man who made the trains run on time."
Luca (played by Charlie Lucas) is a boy living in Florence whose family situation is precarious at best; his mother has died and his father has little time for him. Fortunately, he's a welcome guest with Mary (Joan Plowright), a English woman visiting Italy to soak up European culture.
Mary and her friends -- high-toned Lady Hester (Maggie Smith), pretentious Arabella (Judi Dench), American art collector Elsa (Cher) and cheerful lesbian Georgie (Lily Tomlin) -- enjoy the cultured, creative atmosphere of life in Italy, and their initial response to the rise of fascism is to arrange a polite meeting with Mussolini to make sure he and his soldiers mean well.
After some time, Luca's father becomes concerned that the boy is soaking up too much British influence and enrolls him in a boarding school in Austria; by the time 1940 rolls around, situations have changed radically for everyone.
My thoughts and observations about the movie:
- This movie did a lot to remind me that my knowledge of history—all history, including U.S. and World—is pretty close to nil, and scarier than that is the fact that I have no interest in learning—or more accurately—retaining, that which I am re-introduced to either in movies or books. With that said, it wasn't a hinderance to enjoying this movie.
- I thoroughly enjoyed the portrayal of Cher's, Judi's, Maggie's, and Lily's characters.
- That is the butchest, and explicitly Lesbian, role I've ever seen Lily Tomlin play in, and I found it charming.
- The time during the movie, which was not insignificant, that Paul Chequer, who played Wilfred Random, was "disguised" as Miss Lucy, was totally unbelievable, and was the thing I liked least about the movie.
- I found it odd, but delightful, that Cher sang just a few lines from a song, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, in the middle of the movie.
- Predictably, Judi and Maggie excelled in their roles.
- For some reason, perhaps thinking about Maggie Smith as "The Lady Dowager," seeing Cher in this made me think that should would have been a better choice for the Downton Abbey role that was given to Shirley McLaine. You can call her Shirley, because that's her name.