A GOOD WOMAN
Directed by Mike Barker
Lions Gate, 2006
Playwright Oscar Wilde once said that "Men can be analyzed, women merely adored." The guy had a million quotes, but thats one of his better ones. And not a bad thought, really, especially if youre about to sit through the latest adaptation of his material the romantic comedy A Good Woman.
Spend every second you can admiring the women who headline this feature, because theyre smart, cunning and, admittedly, adorable.
As for analyzing? Best spend considerably less time doing that, cause A Good Woman has a lot more sweets than smarts.
Unlike Wildes traditional 19th century fare, the backdrop for A Good Woman, based on the novel Lady Windemeres Fan, has been shifted to the 1930s. Horny socialite Stella Erlynne (Helen Hunt), having chewed up a bit too much of The Big Apple in bedding her fair share of wealthy husbands, moves from New York to the picturesque Amalfi coast of Italy, where she targets her next upper-crust conquest, Robert Windermere (Mark Umbers), vacationing with his new young bride, Meg (Scarlett Johansson).
Fibs are flung about with shameless abandon as the seductive older woman twists the heart of the younger and naive Mrs. Windermere. Enter Lord Darlington (Stephen Campbell Moore), a British aristocrat who has a thing for Meg. When some cheque stubs surface, proving that Robert has been slipping Stella some cash (and quite possibly slipping her something else as well), the humiliated Meg sails away with Darlington.
Reputations and relationships hang in the balance, but its nothing that the gift of a fan cant solve. And if that has you scratching your head, then you dont know your Wilde.
Aside from Hunt and Johansson, who both have a hoot with their roles, Tom Wilkinson is one of the movies bigger joys, playing a millionaire with a heart of gold. He, perhaps more than any other cast member, has a knack for this kind of dialogue. Consequently, Wilkinson is not only able to deliver his lines, but play with them as well.
And why not have some fun with this? Lady Windemeres Fan isnt one of Wildes more intelligent pieces, but it does have snap. Some of that comes across in A Good Woman the jibes remain, and theyre still beautiful but the prim and proper presentation (this is a tale of ill repute, after all) is a bit too fluffy.
A good adaptation overall, but one that couldve been great with just a wee bit more bite.