This film by Zeffirelli is a semi-autobiographical snippet
from his youth. It follows the lives of a group of elderly british women
living in Florence in the 1930's and 1940's.
Maggie Smith, Joan Plowright, Judi Dench and Cher? One can imagine a scene out of The Player where the American studio executive is saying,'Maggie Smith, Joan Plowright and Judi Dench don't have any star power, who can we get to play the rich, slutty art collector and the lesbian archaeologist? How about Cher and Lily Tomlin?' Don't get me wrong, I like Cher and Lily. I always have. But Dame Maggie, Lady Joan and Dame Judi
can act rings around them. And in this film, Zeffirelli lets them run free, too free perhaps. They are literally eating the scenery. Judi Dench, in particular, spends much of her time running around screaming. Maggie Smith is over the top as the wife of the late ambassador to Italy. Only Joan Plowright gives a controlled performance. The best performance is by Bard Wallace who plays an Italian boy adopted by Joan Plowright.
This film is not subtle. Beyond letting the actors go
wild here, the director makes sure that the audience has to figure out
nothing for itself. After a scene in which the cast listens to a radio
broadcast describing Pearl Harbor, the date, "December 7, 1941" is flashed
in big letters on the screen. And so we see black shirts rampaging around breaking windows, Jews being led off never to be seen again and even our brave group of women imprisioned. But something is missing. I never really cared about any of it as portrayed in this movie. It's always nice to see the female Royalty of the British theatre but they are pretty much wasted here.