Mixed or average reviews - based on 31 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 12 out of 31
  2. Negative: 1 out of 31
  1. The story has old-fashioned characters and situations, and Haas has sensibly filmed it in an old-fashioned way, stressing visual appeal rather than the story's sordid undertones. The acting is excellent, too.
  2. It's a corker of a story - a polished yarn full of desire, desperation and despair.
  3. Reviewed by: Phoebe Flowers
    A refined, tasteful film about pure, hard lust.
  4. 75
    This whole movie is about manners. There is sex and violence, but the movie is not about giving in to them; it's about carrying on as if they didn't exist.
  5. In the most extreme moments, Thomas hits her career pinnacle.
  6. All of Haas' movies have an air of weirdness and dread, and this one is no exception. But it's romantic as well.
  7. Reviewed by: Jay Carr
    Is a chamber romance, in that there's nothing grand or sweeping about it, but it's got all the style it needs to go with those glorious Tuscan settings.
  8. Reviewed by: Derek Elley
    This least affected of their (Haases) movies is also the most dramatically and emotionally convincing.
  9. Reviewed by: Robert Horton
    Scott Thomas and Penn finally develop a bit of unlikely chemistry, aided by the Hitchcockian atmosphere. I found myself rooting for these foolish, pampered, naïve people, and rooting for the movie as well.
  10. It has some wonderful moments and a handful of delicious Maughamian characters.
  11. A charmingly mounted, period romantic drama that benefits from the performances of a fine ensemble cast and the lovely location settings of Florence and Tuscany.
  12. It's low-grade Casablanca - an ill-fated love affair, rife with murder and deceit, with World War II as a backdrop and a farewell scene that has something to do with getting to Paris.
  13. 60
    Impressive supporting cast---, in character parts both expanded and invented, enrich the enterprise.
  14. 60
    The Haases, whose previous films ("Angels and Insects," "The Music of Chance") evinced a remote, unfussy sensibility, are a poor fit for the melodramatic contortions that the story demands.
  15. 60
    Despite his natty wardrobe and calculated sangfroid, Penn doesn't summon up quite the right image.
  16. Reviewed by: Michael Sragow
    Despite the prestigious talents involved, this is strictly "Minor Piece Theatre."
  17. Moderately pleasing adaptation of the W. Somerset Maugham novella.
  18. Reviewed by: Tom Keogh
    If you're paying close attention, there is reason enough to find Up at the Villa a fascinating experience, almost an experiment in some ways, but it's not a fully realized work of cinema.
  19. Reviewed by: John Hartl
    Somewhere around the beginning of Hour Two, the narrative loses momentum, and Pino Donaggio's molasses-thick score begins to drag everything down with it. The ending also lacks the surprise twist that seems to be promised .
  20. 50
    The surprise is how tame and passionless it all seems, particularly after director Philip Haas's fevered "Angels and Insects."
  21. The characters are so conventional that the movie has nowhere interesting to go, even when a corpse complicates affairs.
  22. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    For novelty value, you can do worse than seeing Sean Penn in a rare chance to don evening-wear on screen, but this isn't a sight to sustain a two-hour haul.
  23. 50
    It's fun to see Sean Penn portray a playboy, like Bogart in "Casablanca," who hides his true heart behind a layer of cynicism.
  24. 50
    Genteel but ultimately unnecessary entertainment.
  25. It reminds us that Italy is beautiful, that Fascism was a dreadful nuisance and that Sean Penn is a great actor, deserving of better vehicles than this vintage lemon.
  26. 50
    There are a few interesting moments, but basically Up at the Villa is dangerously short of sympathetic characters.
  27. 50
    For all its handsome decor, tasteful restraint and old-fashioned look-and-feel, is a stiff, lacking tension, sizzle, drama, energy, appeal and, finally, purpose.
  28. Politics is almost an afterthought in this balky, attenuated film.
  29. 40
    The plot is more convenient than intriguing, the characters more cartoonish than iconic--especially the heroine, who grapples with feminism in a way that should have been fascinating.
  30. The melodrama of the Maugham original is too simplistic to involve, and the places the film's plot goes are so obvious that even the presence of quality actors can't create sufficient interest.
  31. 35
    The total lack of sexual chemistry between them doesn't help. Frankly, I'd rather see Scott Thomas play a nun than sit through another one of these turgid romancers.

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