Netflixable? Even sunny “Toscana” can’t save this maudlin Danish Food-and-Daddy-Issues Romance

How on Earth does a movie set amidst the sun, vineyards, food and earthy-sexy sensualists of Tuscany turn out as drab as Helsignor during a mid-winter rain?

Toscana” is an Around the World with Netflix stab at “Italian for Beginners,” another story of stoic Scandinavians turning lighter and sunnier via exposure to Italy, Italians and the Italian food, culture and lifestyle. It’s a “stab” that mises the mark widely enough to matter.

Anders Matthesen stars as Theo, a hard-driving 50ish chef whose famous attention to detail extends to the table settings he triple checks and his kitchen, which he guards like a hawk because no matter how big his kitchen “crew,” “nobody cleans up after me” (in Danish, or dubbed into English).

But on the make-or-break day Theo must deliver and dazzle to a gauche, new-money investor-bro, he gets the news that his estranged father has passed away in far-off Tuscany. Buttoned-down, repressed Dane Theo keeps it together only so long before that arbitrary moment when he snaps and cusses out that “bro” (Sebastian Jessen) and lets down his crew and his manager (Lærke Winther).

Their last hope of fresh cash must be in Italy. His dad left the worn villa and “ristorante” Ristonchi” to him. A “quick sale” and they’ll be flush enough to carry on.

But “quick” anything is going to be a problem in Italy. And that would be funny in any other film covering this very familiar “Under the Tuscan Sun” transformation storyline.

But writer-director Mehdi Avaz, apparently new to comedy, can’t manage it.

Theo can’t find the lawyer/executor of the estate Pino (Andrea Bosca). Theo visits the ristorante, and Gordon Ramsay-fashion, finds everything there lacking. Throw in a little Northern European “don’t drink the water” prejudice, among other prejudices (the kitchen is filthy), and watch the sparks fly.

Only they don’t. Not for a moment.

His sarcastic, seen-it-all waitress Sophia (Cristiana Dell’Anna) dismisses him until she learns who he is. But there’s no apologizing. She grew up here, under Theo’s father Geo’s roof, raised like his daughter. She is Roma, but “feisty” barely figures into it. She may not be thrilled Theo is set to sell the place, but Dell’Anna plays that with resignation, not resistance.

The “magical” conversion scenes, where Theo tastes the olive oil and bread, the only thing Ristonchi has going for it, visits the vast aging warehouse for the local cheeses and such aren’t magical in the least.

Matthesen doesn’t play a single moment in this light and “fun.”

And the wedding banquet, which Theo decides to cater, partly to impress a potential buyer for the Italian property, and partly to impress, honor and “repay” Sophia (it’s her wedding), has a few mouth-watering moments, but no funny, sunny or even sweet ones.

The big emotion here is melancholy, shocking for a Dane I know, but ill-suited to the subject matter and aims of “Toscana.” Theo’s daddy issues have to be resolved, along with him surrendering to Italy’s charms, pace and ethos.

I didn’t buy that transition for a minute.

All “Toscana” has to offer is some decent (limited) scenery, a little taste of high-end cooking, and a love story that’s about as romantic as the one The Bard set in foggy Helsignor.

At least nobody kills herself this time round.

Rating: TV-MA, profanity

Cast: Anders Matthesen, Cristiana Dell’Anna, Lærke Winther and Andrea Bosca

Credits: Scripted and directed by Mehdi Avaz. A Netflix release.

Running time: 1:33

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
This entry was posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Netflixable? Even sunny “Toscana” can’t save this maudlin Danish Food-and-Daddy-Issues Romance

  1. Greybeard says:

    The voices in the dubbed English version are just so wrong. They alone make it hard to take seriously from the jump.

  2. J P says:

    A really poorly done knockoff of A Good Year. 2/10

  3. David says:

    Interesting that in a world dripping in pcness it’s ok to shamelessly and openly express one’s hatred for Scandinavians! It’s a movie Roger! And it’s pretty damn realistic. Put your prejudices away or at least acknowledge them.

    • Roger Moore says:

      This may be the stupidest comment of the month. What manner of poisonous pinhead grasps at prejudice in a review that he doesn’t agree with, a review that merely recounts the ancient Northern European vs Southern European prejudices toyed with, without laughs, in this corpse of a comedy?

  4. Callie Fisher says:

    I thought it was lovely. I’m so sorry you didn’t like it. I thought the actors in their characters were very believable. The locations were beautiful and filmed lovingly. The food – well, every scene showing preparation made my mouth water. I very much felt the emotions and the struggle in the man coping with what he felt was a father’s betrayal and desertion. Yes, I liked it very much. The young woman struggling to understand where she belonged and with who. It wasn’t tortuous and overly long. I didn’t have to see every little thing they went through to see that the changes at the end were real – and welcomed. I think it is a movie I would be happy to go back to and watch again. So, there you go, a lovely movie.

  5. Ken says:

    Couldn’t agree more. I’ve just watched this underweight copy of ‘A Good Year’. The lead actor even looks like Russell Crowe – as he is now. The poor English dubbing is accompanied by even poorer English subtitles. Unfortunately, it appears neither the dubbing or subtitle editors ever spoke to each other so the result is even more confusing than the ridiculous storyline. Towards the end, the subtitles go missing – possibly because the writer was fed-up trying to follow the tortuous plot or, more likely, they just got bored. It seems the producers spent the budget on the location and the female lead and then had to make do with whoever was available in the car park. Give it miss.

  6. Allan says:

    Havent seen it yet, but it sounds a lot like Neeson´s “Made in Italy”

Comments are closed.