Netflix Tuscany is the story of a master chef whose dishes are delicious but whose personality is acidic. I have to take the yin with the yang I suppose. Director Mehdi Avaz, writing with Nikolaj Sherfig, stages this character’s personal journey as a love letter to the sights and sounds of rural Italy – and its flavors, as he also mixes some food porn into this narrative recipe. Will the film encourage our investment in the protagonist’s predicament, or just make us hungry for lunch? let’s find out
TUSCANY: STREAM OR SKIP?
The essentials: Theo (Anders Matthen) is the type of high-end restaurant chef who arranges meticulously sliced turnips in artful patterns on a plate, drizzles on a little sauce, charges a not inconsiderable pile of dough for it, and then everyone goes home hungry. That said, he’s famous, his restaurants earn Michelin stars, and he’s prone to yelling at people, especially when he’s micromanaging his subordinates. This particular restaurant isn’t his dream though – that’s a work in progress. A potential investor in this dream comes into the kitchen and although he’s a glitzy one and a little more overbearing and eager, he doesn’t deserve the tongue lashes he gets from Theo, who has a lot of work to do to earn our sympathy from now on as our protagonist.
There are reasons Theo is an Angry Man. He has long been estranged from his father, who taught him to cook but then left him and his mother and never seems to have looked back. And now he’s dead, and Theo has inherited a villa, castle, restaurant, hotel and grove style estate in rural Tuscany. His plan: race down there, sell the place, bring the money back to Denmark and finally open your own place. But this is TUSCANY, which we all know to be a beautiful old-world place, and it will surely turn into an appreciator of such beauty in an instant, right? Well, he anonymously walks onto the premises, sits down, orders something to eat, goes to great lengths to figure out how to fill his bottled water, sniffs at the food, and doesn’t endear himself to anyone.
He particularly annoys Sophia (Cristiana Dell’Anna), who seemed to see Theo’s father as her own father figure and now runs the place like someone who loves it, not a businesswoman. Objectively it’s a bit ramshackle and could do with better management, but it has heaps of charm, including but not limited to the wild boars in the nearby forest, which staff hunt and kill and roast to great succulence over a fire. However, Theo hardly bothers with a buyer and still courts a buyer with the help of Pino (Andrea Bosca), Sophia’s fiancé. This is all without Sophia’s support, not that she can do anything about it; it’s their home, and this is where this cold mean jerk flies in and tries to make it a commodity.
One night Theo can’t sleep so he goes down to the kitchen and scrubs it clean just so he can cut some bread and press the pieces on the grill and get out the mortar and pestle and grind up some herbs and meticulously put together World’s Most Exciting can-over…sandwich. God help the man who wakes up at 2am and can’t settle for some ham on Wunderbrot for if he has eaten some of a shared one food market he would certainly become a miserable wad of processed fat and sodium rather than the miserable wad of what he is now. Maybe it takes a few Vespa rides through the countryside with pretty Sophia to change his embittered character? SHARE NOTHING.
Which movies will it remind you of?: Under the Tuscan sun comes to mind, although the quirky Theo doesn’t quite have the charm of Diane Lane.
Notable performance: Dell’Anna does her best to be the catalyst for Theo’s likely (inevitable?) change of heart, but Sophia is a sketch of a character who never quite comes to life.
Memorable dialogue: “The most important ingredient – do you know what that is?” asks Sophia, and you know the answer, I can already hear you moaning: “It’s love.”
gender and skin: None, but I have to admit, the sandwich looks good enough to French kiss.
Our opinion: Hey Theo, GO TO THERAPY BRO. work on your shit Because you only care about this dysfunction. So is the movie. My description of Tuscany doesn’t quite do it justice – from the premise it sounds like formulaic rom-com fodder, but Avaz directs it as a melodrama based on Theo’s attempt to break a significant psychological barrier. It works like a clichéd tale about an excited townsman who is transformed by the country’s charms. But Mattheson can’t seem to maintain three points of contact with the character – the script skimps on the intricate character details that would make Theo more likable and merit some kind of catharsis or redemption.
The film often seems busy showing us close-ups of compotes and roasted pigeons, or indulging in postcard photographs of landscapes and the beautiful Ristonchi Castle grounds (a real hotel and wedding venue). It’s as if the magic of the place is enough to transform Theo’s curdled personality into something endearing enough to charm Sophia out of her wedding dress; The romance here is as unconvincing as the food porn is appetizing. We get sob flashbacks, a drunken speech in Act 3, and the mundane claim that Theo has to quit in order to cure his illnesses Measurement so much when he’s cooking, and start instead feeling it more. as acting, Tuscany is a boring potato, but as an audition for a Food Network appearance, it’s a resounding success.
Our appeal: SKIP IT. Tuscany drops an astringent protagonist into comfortable surroundings and ends with the same old predictable stuff.
John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more about his work at johnserbaatlarge.com.