Cinema: Tea With Mussolini

Directed by Franco Zeffirelli

The Scorpioni are far from deadly. They're a group of English ladies living in Florence, raising an abandoned, illegitimate child in British virtue and avoiding Fascist thuggery. All that becomes harder to do when Italy enters World War II. Maggie Smith and Judi Dench are glorious comic actresses, while Joan Plowright provides a firm, touching moral center to the film. They almost make you forget Cher's totally out-of-it work as a disapproved-of American and carry the film to its destiny, which is one of inoffensive inconsequence, prettily staged.

--By Richard Schickel


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