A little bare, but nothing short of beautiful...
Andrew Ellington | I'm kind of everywhere | 03/23/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Bernardo Bertolucci is one of those directors you either love or hate. He can easily rub someone the wrong way with his exploitation and ceaseless explicit content, but when one understands the message behind Bertolucci's apparent sensual frustrations he can be appreciated for much more than he is usually regarded as. His films are not mere `skin flicks' as some have felt the need to wrongfully accuse them of being. In fact, some of his films are sheer masterpieces (`Last Tango in Paris' is above and beyond one of the best films ever made) and even those that fall somewhat short of his intellectual reaching (`The Dreamers' was close but yet so far from his potential) are still much more than meets the eye. `Stealing Beauty' is one of his weaker films, for it doesn't have the emotional or even the political depth of his other work, but it still manages to carry itself rather well and touches upon much more than bare skin.
The story is a coming of age tale that revolves around a nineteen year old virgin named Lucy. After her mother's suicide, Lucy travels to Italy to visit friends of her mothers. Her mother had journeyed to this artistic retreat twenty years prior and had become pregnant with Lucy, so Lucy's agenda in visiting is to find her real father; and lose her virginity. There are many different individuals whom she meets and forms friendships with, including Ian, the serious sculptor who is intrigued by Lucy's innocence, as well as Alex, the dying guest who stimulates Lucy intellectually.
And then there are a slew of young Italian boys who find her just utterly delicious.
While the film centers itself on Lucy's libido and her desire to lose that prized possession known as her virginity (why are we so quick to give away something so precious) it isn't merely about that act. While staying at this home Lucy is given a glimpse a life very far removed from her own; a life of carefree passions and removed from all scrutiny. There are scenes where characters parade about in the nude; no one reluctant but everyone comfortable and content. It appears shocking to some and maybe even repulsive, but the truth of the matter is that Bertolucci is trying to show the contrasting variables of self contentment. As an American culture we are often guarded, as if we are afraid to expose ourselves to others. The fact that everyone at this house is that open, even the unfit and or older ones, shows that there is a level of self respect and love that is not found in a lot of individuals today.
The acting is all pretty well done, with only a few missteps. Sinead Cusack and Rachel Weisz stand out amidst all the pretty faces as two very talented and very moving actresses. Liv Tyler is gorgeous and has a sense of restraint needed to carry her character, but she does at times get lost in the scenes. A lot has been said over Jeremy Irons performance, but personally I didn't find him nearly as moving as the late Donal McCann who handled Ian with such fervor. He really understood how to embody his character with the right amount of smoldering sensuality that made him utterly irresistible. His eyes were just downright piercing.
This is no where near as deeply investing as `Last Tango in Paris', but it is much more than some reviewers have made it sound. This is not a `boring film only good for a shot of Tyler's goods' but a sensible and honest portrait of a young girl finding herself amidst people who truly understand what it means to be free."
Uninteresting story and characters
M. Smith | Washington, NC | 06/15/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Liv Tyler plays 19-year old Lucy Harmon, who travels to Italy to spend the summer with family friends following the suicide of her mother, a poet. The friends, an Irish sculptor and his wife, have an attractive villa in the Tuscan hills which seems to be a gathering place for her mother's artistic and literary friends.
An intriguing entry in her mother's diary suggests Lucy's father was someone other than her husband. Lucy hopes to discover her natural father's identity during her stay at the villa. Lucy's second goal for the summer is to lose her virginity, perhaps in the same olive grove where she suspects she, herself, was conceived.
My problem with this film is that I don't care enough about the characters to be interested in their problems. Many people come and go, often with little introduction or explanation of who they are or why they are there, making it seem as though the audience is being excluded from the goings-on. Even after a second viewing, I still do not know who some of the characters were.
Neither the film nor the characters held my interest."
Maurice Battisti | 09/04/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The story, TUSCANY, and the sculpture and the actors make this a great film, often neglected. Pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy!"