Tea With Mussolini

Director:Franco Zeffirelli
Writers:John Mortimer and Zeffirelli
G2 Films; PG; 117 minutes
Cher, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright, Maggie Smith, Lily Tomlin

Franco Zeffirelli's semi-autobiographical Tea with Mussolini implies two things. First, that an ensemble cast of talented actresses and lavish scenery in an exciting place and time is a certain formula for cinematic success. Second, that Italian fascism's primary impact was to slightly circumscribe the creature comforts of expatriate British bourgeoisie for whom life must be beautiful. Lodged between these two assumptions lies Zeffirelli's product. The ensemble cast quivers with ability: Cher shines as the art-heiress playgirl who breezes into town; Maggie Smith holds her own against Cher's talent in her role of an effete Brit blue-blood. Julie Dench, Lily Tomlin, and Joan Plowright complete the ensemble of women who fight for their right to tea against the encroaching muzzle of Fascist Italy.