Tea with Mussolini focuses on the life of a boy named Luca, who is director Franco Zefferelli's alter ego. In Florence 1935, young Luca's mother is dead, and he is an orphan. Although Lucas wealthy father lives near by, he has no time for children. The father's English secretary Mary Wallace (Joan Plowright) sees the unjust way Luca is being raised in the orphanage. As a result she takes him in. Along with Mary's group of English tea time friends known as The Scorpioni, Luca is taught many things. He learns to appreciate art through the nutty, yet lovable artist Arabella (Dame Judi Dench). He learns of Shakespeare and culture from his guardian Mary, and learns how to behave as a gentleman through the other members of The Scorpioni.
Soon enters the rich American art collector, Elsa (Cher) who is linked to The Scorpioni though Georgie (Lily Tomlin) a lesbian art excavator. Elsa, who once knew Luca's mother, owes her money for clothes she would make. Elsa then hears that Luca's mother has since died. However, being a woman of extreme kindness, she offers to put the money she owes toward Luca's future.
At this point things are looking good. But as the years pass the war begins to swell. The German and Italian forces join, and declare the English are the enemy. Since all the members of The Scopioni are English, this mandate affects them greatly. I don't want to go any further with the movies plot, because number one, there are many little subplots and it is quite complicated to explain on paper, and number two I wouldn't want to give anything away. But I will say one last thing that may put you, the moviegoer at ease, the dog doesn't die (see it and you'll know what I mean).
I admirably recommend Tea with Mussolini; it is moving and clever. And to my surprise fairly humorous. The writer (John Mortimer) does an excellent job at throwing in a good collection of chuckles, without cheapening the seriousness of the movie. The performances and characters are also wonderful; they leave nothing to be desired. One character that I really liked was Lily Tomlin's art excavator, Georgie. Her crack up wry sense of humor really shines through. Another thing I'd like to point out was the phenomenal Costuming (Carlo Centolauigna, Gioia Fiorella Mariani) and Art Direction (Anna Anni, Jenny Beavan, Alberto Spiazzi), both of these elements captured the time and mood of the piece.
Do YOU belieeeeeve?
Run time: 117 mins
In Theaters: Friday 14th May 1999
Distributed by: MGM/UA
Production compaines: Cattleya, Cineritmo, Film and General Productions, Medusa Produzione
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 65%
Fresh: 22 Rotten: 12
IMDB: 6.9 / 10
Director: Franco Zeffirelli
Screenwriter: John Mortimer