Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: None listed as yet
THE stunning scenery of Italy's Amalfi Coast provides a lavish
backdrop for this star-studded re-telling of Oscar Wilde's Lady
Windermere's Fan, but while the use of location looks warm and
vibrant, the film itself may well leave audiences feeling a little
The film is set in the 1930s as a young couple's marriage is
put in jeopardy by high-society gossip and the seductive manipulations
of an older woman of ill repute.
Helen Hunt portrays the older woman in question, Mrs Erlynne,
a glamorous, middle-aged socialite whose reputation for preying
on wealthy men has forced her to flee New York to escape her mounting
Upon arriving in Italy, however, she immediately sets tongues
wagging by befriending the young, good-looking newly-wed, Robert
Windermere (Mark Umbers), who is quickly suspected of providing
her with a secret allowance.
The subsequent gossip eventually has serious implications for
his marriage to Meg (Scarlett Johansson), who has, herself, begun
to attract the attentions of the notorious playboy, Lord Darlington
(Stephen Campbell Moore).
Yet while Robert tries desperately to avoid any scandal, Mrs
Erlynne continues to attract the attention of the coastal community's
men, including the wealthy Lord Augustus (Tom Wilkinson), who
soon proposes marriage.
Events come to a head at Meg's 21st birthday party, when the
truth behind each character's motivations finally emerges and
some dark family secrets are revealed.
A Good Woman is a curious film in that it continually stifles
the promise shown by its premise and cast.
Director, Mike Barker, seems content to tone down the provocative
nature of Wilde's original work to keep things safe and family-friendly,
thereby sacrificing much of its impact for contemporary audiences.
He claims that by updating the setting to 1930s Italy and by
turning several key characters into Americans he has helped to
give the story more immediacy, making it more approachable and
But by opting to work within the confines of a PG certificate,
he removes almost all of the sexual spark between characters who
subsequently appear dull and frustrated.
As a result, several of the cast appear to be struggling to generate
any chemistry, with Johansson and Umbers, in particular, providing
a dull presence.
Hunt, too, isn't allowed enough screen-time to suggest why her
character might be so alluring, while Moore's ladies' man lacks
the necessary charisma to make the right sort of impact.
Too often, the film feels overly polite and suggested, only really
tapping into the barbed wit of Wilde's original work during the
odd throw-away line that makes some astute observations about
marriage and the difference between the sexes.
It is during such moments that Wilkinson emerges as the film's
biggest asset, tossing around glib one-liners with carefree abandon
and providing audiences with a character to genuinely care for.
Sadly, his good work is not enough to rescue the rest of proceedings,
which all too frequently disappoint rather than inspire.
Had the film taken a few more of the risks that Wilkinson's character
talks about when wooing Mrs Erlynne it might have seemed a little
more enticing; as it stands, A Good Woman simply isn't good enough
to be worth recommending.