When I interviewed Diane Lane we spoke of films for and about women and she said would it be nice if films that made Joan Crawford and Betty Davis famous would be produced again. Under the Tuscan Sun fit that category - so does Must Love Dogs.
In this one Sarah Nolan (Lane) is recently divorced; it was her husband's idea. Her sisters are determined to get her back in circulation and her father (Christopher Plummer), a widower, has a different date every night. It's her sister that places an add which says "must love dogs". The best response she receives says he is interested in "the slow bloom of affection." Responding to the message she finds the man with the quote and a yellow rose is her father.
The story from a book by Clair Cook has a character who works at a butcher counter and wants to super-size her order from a chicken breast to a whole chicken; it will take the entire film before she visits him again and recognizes her world has changed.
She also meets up with Bob (Dermot Mulroney) who looks OK but barriers exist because of her position as an early childhood teacher. After her sisters check out "Sports Illustrated" dating tips they choose responses three, eleven and fourteen as her best bets. That leads to dates with a crying failure and one that asks about handcuffs. Jake (John Cusack) picks up on her picture and rents a dog to meet her but nothing goes well and, like his role in Serendipity, it takes a while for the connection to be made again.
Meanwhile sister Carol (Elizabeth Perkins) pushes on and dear old dad has three women on a string. One is Stockard Channing's Dolly who lives in a trailer far from her TV address at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but she has wisdom for Sarah, and as we listen to the sound track playing "Lonely Girl" we realize this is a delightful warm film. The Partridge Family song becomes enjoyment for the family.
As Sarah lets her hair down she appears to be a "Desperate Housewife," but when the truth comes out she cries in the shower.
Over all this is a romance from the 30s in a 21st century setting. Lane makes us laugh at her failures and smile as she stumbles toward confidence and a whole chicken. At the same time she places herself more firmly in the category of superstar who is willing to appear as glamorous as possible and without makeup when she is dealing with preschool kids. She is as real on the screen as Must Love Dogs is enjoyable.