Tea With Mussolini | Chicago Reader

Tea With Mussolini

Rated PG 117 minutes

“Luca became an artist and helped in the making of this film,” says a somewhat facetious title at the end of this somewhat farcical 1999 drama, based in part on the memoirs of director Franco Zeffirelli. Luca (who's more like an organizing principle than a character) is rejected by his father and raised by a group of elderly female English expatriates who are determined to remain in Florence through World War II. Their circle includes two Americans: a lesbian archaeologist (Lily Tomlin) and a Jewish gold digger and art collector (Cher) who finally falls in love but with the wrong man. Cher generates much of the movie's limited interest, and Maggie Smith, as a diplomat's widow who believes she has a special relationship with Mussolini, is undeniably skillful. Yet the story, fragmented by the perspectives of too many characters, is more lightweight than funny, though it does bring up always timely ideas about the relationship between nationalism and war. In Italian with subtitles.

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