Review of 'Tea with Mussolini'

tea with mussolini - cinema one sheet movie poster (1).jpg In 1935 a group of British wealthy woman, known locally as the “Scorpioni”, are enjoying living the lives of ex-pats in Florence, Italy. Despite the warnings the group are fans of Mussolini (Claudio Spadaro) who, when visited, assures the group they are valued and will be protected. Mary Walsh (Dame Joan Plowright), works as the secretary for the stern Paolo Innocente (Massimo Ghini) who turns his back on his illegitimate son Luca (Baird Wallace) living in an orphanage. Mary takes Luca under her wing, aided financially by the Scorpioni and Paolo. The world of the Scorpioni is disrupted when a young American, the vivacious Elsa Morgenthal (Cher) is introduced to the group. The elderly Lady Hester Random (Dame Maggie Smith) takes an instant dislike to Elsa. The lives of the woman will be forever alerted after the start of World War 2…

An amazing cast (Cher AND Maggie Smith?) in this touching film from director Franco Zeffirelli. Beautiful Florence is shown in it's glory with frequent, long, loving shots of the city. The focus here is very much with the group of woman living their lives very much removed from the world as it changes around them. When this world intrudes they suffer but (no surprises here) eventually triumph with their integrity intact.

Sure, “Tea with Mussolini” is quite romantic but it is also charming and, surprisingly, quite a bit of fun as the woman try to continue their affluent lifestyles at a very dangerous point in history. Their obliviousness is amusing as they seek to continue living their life of leisure. It is then tragic to see the woman's attitudes not changing but those in the country turning slowly but surely against them. From acceptance and acquiescence to their whims to despising their lifestyle then outright rejection despite their long-term residency.

Quite an amusing film with some great scenery and performances but with just the right amount of pathos as the world of these woman gradually falls apart. Though wounded, it is a triumph that the woman keep their integrity and, at the end of the day, deeply care for Italy and it's people.

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2022-01-26

Directed by: Franco Zeffirelli

Studio: Medusa Film

Year: 1999

Length: 117 minutes

Genre: Melodrama