UP AT THE VILLA
Where Can One Find Deceit?
Release Date: May 05, 2000
Starring: Kristin Scott Thomas, Sean
Penn, Anne Bancroft, James
Fox, Jeremy Davies, & Derek
Audience: Older teenagers & adults
Runtime: 115 minutes
Distributor: USA Films
Director: Philip Haas
Producer: David Brown & Geoff Stier
Writer: Belinda Haas
Address Comments To:Scott Greenstein, Chairman
9333 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Phone: (310) 385-4000
Fax: (310) 385-4408
Kristin Scott Thomas (SWEET AND LOWDOWN and THE ENGLISH PATIENT) stars as Mary Panton, a young English widower staying at a Renaissance Villa, courtesy of some well-to-do socialites who have befriended her. One of them, called “Princess” (Anne Bancroft of KEEPING THE FAITH and THE GRADUATE), is one of the upscale group who is always throwing parties and is close to Mary. When Sir Edgar Swift, the ambassador to India, proposes to Mary, she and Princess discuss the idea of getting married even if you don’t love your husband. Mary must make a final decision to accept or reject Swift’s proposal when he returns in a few days. Princess gives Mary the advice to accept the proposal and take on lovers, recalling her own past love affairs. Mary says that a respectable woman wouldn’t do such a thing, but Princess reminds her that she is, indeed, respectable.
Princess throws a dinner party and among the guests are Beppino Leopardi and Rowley Flint. Leopardi, a detective with the police, attempts to work his sleazy charm with Mary, but to no avail. Rowley is assigned to be Mary’s escort, though his own charms fall short of this seemingly older and wiser woman. Meanwhile, a vocalist scheduled to perform does not show up at the dinner, so the chef recruits one of the waiters, Karl, to play the violin. He obliges, but is terrible and is scorned by the guests and the chef, but not by Mary. On her way out with Rowley, Mary shows the waiter kindness with a generous tip.
Rowley takes Mary on a shortcut and eventually gets lost. Finding themselves at an old church, the pair begin talking. Mary opens up and tells Rowley about her dead husband, who gambled and drank away his life. Afterwards, Rowley, though married, attempts to kiss Mary, but fails when he receives a slap in the face. An angry Mary drives off, leaving Rowley to walk back himself. Speeding down the road, she slams on her brakes when she sees someone in the road ahead of her. She apologizes profusely, then realizes that the man is Karl, the waiter from the restaurant. The two converse about his leaving the next day, and Mary discovers that Karl is a refugee. She invites him back to her villa to see a painting she owns and her garden. Karl thanks her over and over again, saying that he will always look at her as a goddess from heaven. Swept away by his words and feeling sorry for him, Mary sleeps with him, with the knowledge that he will be leaving Florence to be with his family.
Karl, however, does not leave, but sneaks into Mary’s villa, wanting to be with her again. Frightened, she apologizes for giving him the wrong idea, even offering money to him. Hurt even more by this offer, Karl is rough with her, leading Mary to pull out a gun. Karl takes the gun from her and, after pointing it at her, shoots himself. Horrified, Mary calls Rowley, and together they try to conceal the situation. However, Leopardi, who despises them both, catches on to their scheme, and deception and blackmail grow by the minute.
This story focuses on a shallow woman who is portrayed initially with strength and dignity. It is disappointing, though, when her lack of moral integrity leads her to do some very ignorant things. Actress Kristin Scott Thomas portrays Mary well, though her ability is severely weakened by the lack of character development. Sean Penn, in an unusual role for him, plays the part of Rowley well, making him a distinguished yet coy gentleman. Although his acting ability is convincing, his attempts at aristocratic speech damage his portayal, causing him to sound stiff and false at times. Altogether, the characters seem to be living their lives in a bubble, with only a few outside instances, such as an influx of refugees and the mention of a Jewish doctor amid the reality of fascist Italy, to invade their limited world.
UP AT THE VILLA does not depict explicit nudity and sex, though they are implied. Understandably, however, the circumstances revolving around Mary’s character gives the movie an immoral undertone, as there is neither a redemptive character nor situation for the audience. Mary eventually reveals a small glimmer of some sort of conviction, but mainly for the work it takes to maintain falsehood. Her willingness to fornicate with a stranger leaves an uncaring, worldly viewpoint of meaningless sex. This conflicts greatly with true, pure love, so extreme caution is advised.
The story in this movie focuses on a shallow woman portrayed initially with strength and dignity. It is disappointing, though, when her lack of moral integrity leads her to do some very ignorant things. UP AT THE VILLA does not depict explicit nudity and sex, though they are implied. Understandably, however, the circumstances revolving around Mary’s character gives the movie an immoral undertone, as there is neither a redemptive character nor situation for the audience. Mary eventually shows a small glimmer of some sort of conviction, but mainly for the work it takes to maintain falsehood. Her willingness to fornicate with a stranger leaves an uncaring, worldly viewpoint of meaningless sex. This conflicts greatly with true, pure love, so extreme caution is advised