Reviews ...

They Stayed Behind 

... A review of "Tea With Mussolini"

by Morris Wattenberg

The blissful sun of Tuscany, shared by classicists and tenors, has been given a bouquet by director Franco Zeffirelli in "Tea With Mussolini," a biographical memoir about English and American women expatriates during World War II.

Under the guidance of Joan Plowright as Mary, a wealth of characters offers a jig-saw of motivations for remaining in war-time Florence. Not the least perturbed is Judi Dench as Arabella, dedicated to restoring Old Master paintings. She is aided by a loud-speaking American played by Cher in chic raiment. The ladies find do-good opportunities to help Mary raise an orphaned Italian lad, Luca, who prospers under their beneficence.

Despite increasing pressures as the war waxes, the women manage to retain their doughty attitudes, abetted by a photograph in which Maggie Smith as Lady Hester is seen close to dictator Mussolini.

In this period, we learn that Mussolini is grappling with the onset of opposition, which the ladies support eventually.

The splendid acting of these women brings home the character and courage of these expatriates, even as the Italian regime moves to oppression and murder.

September 3,1999

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