Review of Tea With Mussolini

Cher, Maggie Smith, Judi Densch, Joan Plowright, Lily Tomlin and Baird Wallace star in this 1999 Zefferelli film, Tea With Mussolini. Set in Florence starting in 1935, we quickly enter the war. What does it mean to these British and American women, living in a foreign city where human creativity goes back hundred years and human depravity is about to erupt now?

Cher’s character collects modern art, but, we learn, saves humans. Will she be saved too? Densch’s character restores and saves a Lady in an old fresco. Plowright’s character saves a bastard. Tomlin’s character, a feisty archaeologist, saves the distant past and the vulnerable present. Even Smith’s character, self-centered and naively trusting Mussolini, saves someone. Meanwhile, Wallace’s character, Luca, in lessons about Shakespeare and sculpture and jealousy and couriering, learns real art, learns to save not only paintings and plays but people too.

Why? Why, in war-time when saving someone or something can easily get you killed?

Densch’s character says early on that love is why, though it has many guises in Florence, this city of many towers: amour, art, dog-love, compassion for bastards, Jews, even those you hate.

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4 Responses to Review of Tea With Mussolini

  1. Shelley Essaunce says:

    I also enjoyed this movie.

    • yeah? what did you like about it? did you see it alone? how is it relevant to you? too bad we can’t chat about this over coffee or tea. what others have you enjoyed?

  2. Ute says:

    I liked this movie too. I liked the friendship of the women….. they were so diverse and so different from eachother….. whether it was background or values….. yet there was this committment to eachother and the time invested in getting to know eachother. It takes time to get to know anyone. I think of the few people I’ve known for at least ten or even more years of my life. You love these people simply because they’ve been PRESENT for that entire duration….. despite the fact that you don’t always see eye to eye on everything. I have to admit that I was particularly drawn to Cher’s character and her determination to be optimistic, despite the fact that she had been swindled by her young lover. She seemed to understand that his behaviour was not a reflection on her…… but ultimately a value choice that he had made that would forever have an effect on his life. She loved, naively yes, but knew how to move forward when the time was ripe.

    Now the “material” girl in me loved the costumes and the imagery of this movie too. This era in our history appeared to be so elegant. All of the beautiful things in this film: the art, the architecture, the excavation, the clothing….. this was an era of meticulously hand crafted beauty. A time of “slow”, when we waited for things to be ready….. instead of the instant coffee world we appear to be living in today. I like those old fashioned values, and think I crave them in my life today. I think that’s why I love to recapture vintage dresses…… to admire the workmanship….. and make sure that it does not get forgotten.

  3. Susan Hirst says:

    beautiful review, peter. you capture all the main characters very well (and remember what they said!)

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