on August 5, 2001
If you long for a peaceful villa on the banks of a serene lake, dream of fresh roses on your breakfast tray, yearn for the serenity of the Italian sun, then watch this enchanting movie. The setting is the last summer before World War II when a spirited middle-aged spinster named Miss Bentley (Vanessa Redgrave) arrives for her annual vacation. She is immediately attracted to Major Wilshire (Edward Fox), a fellow Britisher amongst the Italians and Americans on holiday. She believes you can judge a man by his ears, and Miss Bentley has set her sights on capturing the Major's ears. Alas, into this mix comes a spoiled American (Uma Thurman) who immediately catches the Major's ears, eyes, and other parts of him. Miss Bentley is sad when she realizes he is smitten with the beautiful young Miss Beaumont, but she does not give up. Humiliation and rejection come her way, along with a young Italian who finds the older woman quite charming. Amidst a scenic backdrop and with the strains of Verdi's "Aida" and other soul-stirring Italian music, everyone winds up with the correct partner and all, we presume, will live happily ever after. A light, clever, and often funny film to relish as you dream of sunny days basking in romance and beauty.
on December 8, 2000
So you've just gotten home from a rough day at the office, or your depressed about something and wish you could take a spur of the moment trip to oh so relaxing and romantic Italy (preferably Lake Como!). For most of us, this can't just happen, so I advise you to watch "A month by the lake". It's a simple, relaxing story, and seems to take you away into its' world. I highly recommend this movie, no violence, clench-your-fingernails-suspense, or promiscuous obsenities. And it comes with likable characters, great music, and a wonderful setting, make that magnificent.
This is a charming film about an older, free spirited English woman, an expatriate who in 1937 Italy is interested in an older, stuffy Englishman who is on vacation at the same lakeside resort. A young American nanny, who is at the resort with the family for whom she works, catches the same Englishman's eye. Their love triangle provides many interesting moments for the viewer.
Vanessa Redgrave, who only gets better with age, is charming as the older woman, Miss Bentley, who finds herself competing for the attentions of Major Wilshaw, curmudgeonly played by Edward Fox. Miss Beaumont, played with a certain repellent insousciance by Uma Thurman, capriciously tosses in her hat into the romance stakes. Miss Bentley finds herself playing second fiddle to Miss Beaumont. A young, attractive Italian, however, sees the charms that Major Wilshaw initially fails to appreciate, and Miss Bentley uses his interest in her to great advantage. When Major Wilshaw finally gets his wakeup call, all is well that ends well.
Miss Bentley's wardrobe and style is simplicity itself. Clearly, she is not a woman to follow fashion trends. Yet, she is clearly a woman who will follow where her heart will lead. The young and nubile Miss Beaumont is much more of a fashion maven, yet she lacks the depths of beauty that Miss Bentley naturally has, a beauty that grows from within rather than from without. This is a lovely movie that will make the viewer dream of a time long past.
Since George Clooney and his rat pack seem to be bringing back a certain cachet to Italy's Lake Como, it's worth revisiting this picture-postcard pretty 1995 romantic comedy directed by John Irvin since it is set there before the onset of WWII. The lightweight plot focuses on a beautiful, elegant villa in the summer of 1937 where Miss Bentley has already spent sixteen summers with her father. Adored by the staff, she spends her first summer there after her father has died, and on her first day, she is immediately drawn to the polite but rather pompous Major Wilshaw. In typical movie-only fashion, they meet repeatedly, awkwardly and fractiously, in particular, over a tennis match where she defeats the major with ease in front of a most enthusiastic group. There is unavoidable but unspoken chemistry between the two, but further complications ensue with the arrival of Miss Beaumont, the young, flirtatious nanny of a wealthy Italian family staying at the villa. Miss Beaumont manages to convince Wilshaw that she loves him, and he becomes instantly enamored. On her side, Miss Bentley attracts the attention of a much younger admirer named Vittorio, a local Vespa-riding lothario intent on seducing her amid his raging hormones.
As you can imagine, the complications sort themselves out, but the clever way that Irvin and screenwriter Trevor Bentham handle the story, while patently old-fashioned, is also charming and sometimes quite perceptive about how more mature people approach love. In a rare comedic turn that immediately recalls Kate Hepburn circa 1955's "Summertime", Vanessa Redgrave redefines any preconceived image one would have of a spinster, as she brings buoyant energy and a blessed lack of self-consciousness to the independent Miss Bentley. Even though she makes no attempt at assimilating into the period with her most contemporary look, she shows off a deft skill for romantic foreplay for likely the first time since she was a mod swinger in the 1960's with movies like "Morgan!". Her athleticism is also impressive whether on the tennis court or in the lake swimming the backstroke, though her rather androgynous look wouldn't seem like it would attract the not altogether unwelcome attentions of horny Italian boys.
The other points of the triangle are not as fully drawn. Edward Fox plays the major with a stiff upper lip and glowers appropriately in every scene where he loses his dignity - which is often. Fresh off "Pulp Fiction", Uma Thurman plays a man-eating vamp in broad strokes, and her constant delight in humiliating the major gets tiresome. Her beauty, however, is inarguable and Wilshaw's obsession understandable. There is some intriguing casting on the sidelines - as the moony Vittorio, Alessandro Gassman (son of actor Vittorio Gassman) would play the viral maniac in "Transporter 2" a decade later; and the proprietress of the villa, Signora Fascioli, is played by Alida Valli a mere 46 years after her seductive turn as Harry Lime's lover Anna in Carol Reed's "The Third Man" (sadly and coincidentally she passed away today!). The beauty of Lake Como is captured in all its shimmering light by cinematographer Pasqualino De Santis, and Nicola Piovani's music score provides the right evocative flavor for the period. It's a sweet, entertaining movie, brief at 91 minutes, and definitely for viewers fond of travelogue movies like Mike Newell's "Enchanted April" and Audrey Wells' "Under the Tuscan Sun". The 2003 DVD has no extras.
on May 1, 2003
Vanessa Redgrave is brilliant and absolutely gorgeous in this
fine film about spending a month in Italy. Uma Thurman comes
into the picture as a nanny for a couple of kids and she and
Vanessa vie for the attention of Edward Fox. I am basing this
review on the laserdisc which enchanced the movie considerably
and I imagine the dvd will be even better. One of those movies
that gets more enjoyable every time you watch it. And of course
I want to go back to Italy every time I see it. A perfect
companion piece to ENCHANTED APRIL (when will that be on DVD?)
on February 19, 2005
I couldn't have picked Vanessa Redgrave out of a lineup the first time I saw this movie a few years ago. Now, of course, I own the DVD, and have collected an impressive pile of her other films, too (including one of my very favorites of all time, *Mrs. Dalloway*). This movie was, in other words, part of my awakening to Ms. Redgrave, to other British actors, and to films that showcase beautiful places, nuanced characters, and great performances rather than special effects and stock plot twists.
It's hard to explain what makes this film so delightful, though, considering that there is shockingly little plot and dramatic structure even for a so-called "art film." Indeed, *A Room With A View* quickly begins to seem like *The Terminator* by comparison, and *A Month By The Lake* might easily have turned into the most boring two hours one ever spent.
Luckily, *A Month By the Lake* has Vanessa Redgrave and an almost equally wonderful supporting cast. Redgrave deftly holds the film together with little more than a few hilarious, goofball facial expressions; Uma Thurman plays off this and has lots of campy fun, too.
Four very enthusiastic stars.
This film was made after the blazing and much deserved success of "Enchanted April," a completely bewitching film about English women who rent a villa in Italy without knowing each other beforehand. If you like this at all, see "Enchanted April" - an infinitely superior film.
This film, a woman's film too, has similar beautiful locations, late 1930s, early 1940s settings and style, and a thinner romantic plot at it's core. Vanessa Redgrave and Edward Fox give lovely quiet performances as they meet sweet and irritate each other. Both suffer from middle aged wandering eye to some degree, which drives the plot as we wonder if they will, or will not get together. Unfortunately, neither one of them is a particularly likable character. We are supposed to like Redgrave because she is lanky and lopes along, and we are supposed to like him because SHE finds something redeemable.
Worse, the rest of the cast is extremely uneven in performance, and Thuman turns in her most artificial and posey work. She is lovely and the camera loves her, but she was young, and this is a high school level performance, she seems very ill at ease in this role. By contrast Redgrave's Italian boy interest does a very fine job, perhaps because most of his scenes are with her.
The story is rather predictable, and for classic film fans, we get to see Alida Valli (The Third Man) in her later years. Sadly, her performance is also uneven. When it shows up in so many cast members, one has to attribute this to the Director. Some of them seem to be playing a broad comedy, but the 2 leads are in a refined drama.
For me it was a little too wispy and feels like too much meringe. For many this will be a fine, light entertaining diversion.
on January 15, 2009
I'm baffled by some of the negative reviews. It escapes me how anyone can not be enthralled with this splendid production. The story, the acting, the setting are first rate. Of course if you've not reached or passed middle age, one can understand how viewers may be put off by the pace of the movie and the oblique dialogue that says more by its understatement and passivity. For capturing the tension that exists between two unattached and seemingly different personalities who are confronting aging and loneliness, Fox and Redgrave give hallmark performances.Thurman also adds much to triangular relationship that addresses the folly of a young coquette enticing then ridiculing an older man. This is a classic that can be enjoyed over and over. There is something to be gleaned from each of its perfect ninety-two minutes running time. This sleeper is a keeper.
This sweet-natured romantic comedy found only a limited audience when it came out, probably because it's the story of two middle-aged people who find themselves improbably drawn to each other.
Miss Bentley (Vanessa Redgrave), a woman of a certain age, has returned for a month to a resort villa on the shores of Lake Como where she and her father had spent summers for 16 years. With talk of war (it's 1937), there are no other English; the guests are Italian and two American ladies. But then Major Wilshaw (Edward Fox) checks in, a confident, charming man who carries two tennis racquets should he find someone up for a game. Both Miss Bentley and Major Wilshaw are English to the core, with a certain eccentric reserve and respect for good manners. However, we note that Major Wilshaw wears his old hat at a rakish angle and Miss Bentley takes photographs and is not above a bit of angling around the conventions. Miss Bentley is drawn to the major, and the major is intrigued by Miss Bentley...but then Miss Beaumont (Uma Thurman), the young nanny for a wealthy Italian couple with two young daughters also staying at the villa, arrives. Miss Beaumont lives for the moment and finds stringing along males to be quite fun. The poor major, his vanity appealed to, believes Miss Beaumont may really be attracted to him. Miss Bentley, her eye on the major, is willing to go only so far in saving his ego for him. Eventually, after being made something of a fool, the major realizes how close he came to throwing away someone he values. Miss Bentley realizes that she needs to help the major more than he realizes. And Miss Beaumont, discharged for being a rather poor nanny, decides to make friends with the attractive and wealthy son of parents who own at least four homes in Venezia.
This movie works so well because of the charm and acting skills of Vanessa Redgrave and Edward Fox. The gorgeous scenery around Lake Como doesn't hurt, either. Redgrave's Miss Bentley is a tall woman and a bit awkward. She's friendly, a little self-conscious, but she also breaks through conventions when she finds someone interesting. Edward Fox as Major Wilshaw is such a charmer, but he's also much more conventional than Miss Bentley. He can fool himself, he can take himself a bit too seriously, he can lose his temper. The tennis match between the two, which Miss Bentley wins, is a beautiful comic episode with two fine actors that sets their characters with precision and affection. If you look closely, you'll see Alida Valli, so fine in The Third Man nearly 50 years earlier, as the proprietor of the villa. You won't recognize her but she's still a class actress.
A Month by the Lake is a satisfying, stylish film about flirtation. If you enjoy it, the director, John Irvin, made two other movies you might also like, Turtle Diary and Widow's Peak. The DVD picture may be a bit soft but otherwise looks just fine. There are no significant extras.
Set in gorgeous surrounding at Lake Come pre-WWII, it is tale about a British lady and major, with the triangle formed by an American girl who is a nanny to some Italians. Mix in a young Italian who falls in love with the older British lady and someone named "candlestick" and walla, a interesting film.
At times the plot droans and moans, but overall it is worth the watch. Redgraves is her exceptional fine actress, here has to carry much, with her grace and dignity and timing.
This is of another time and generation, so takes some patience and hanging in there.