Up at the Villa

Director:Phillip Haas
Writer:Belinda Haas
October Films; PG-13; 115 minutes
Cast:Kristin Scott Thomas, Sean Penn, Anne Bancroft

Up at the Villa follows the parlor affairs of a group of British expatriates inhabiting an Italian villa at the early stages of World War II. Mary Panton (Kristin Scott Thomas), a penniless widow, finds herself financially vulnerable, and Sir Swift (James Fox) takes advantage of this condition with a hard-to-refuse offer of marriage-cum-riches. Then enters the smirking American. Rowley Flint (Sean Penn) sweeps Mary off her feet, but he's married (not that Rowley pays attention to this fact). A sudden plot twist involving a rejected plaything brings Mary and Rowley closer together in unexpected way.

It sounds, perhaps, better than it is. Scott Thomas is a shade of her usual self, and the necessary electricity between her and the talented Sean Penn is not in evidence. Trivial machinations of the coddled bourgeoisie make better novels. Up at the Villa plows over the nuance of the W. Somerset Maugham novel on which it was based, steering into serious silliness.