'A Good Woman'
(Helen Hunt, Scarlett Johansson, et al / DVD / PG / (2003) 2006 / LGF)
Overview: Mrs Erlynne is a Manhatten socialite in the 30's. She has both a seductive past and debts. To escape both she flees New York to the Amalfi Coast intending to rely on her charms to create a new life. She soon meets a young couple,Meg and Tom Windemere.Lord Windemere and Mrs Alleyne befriend each other as Tom tries to help Mrs Erlynne back into respectable society. Unfortunately their friendship is mistaken for an adulterous affair that fires delightfully salacious gossip. In her turn, Mrs Erlynne is pursued by the endearingly silly Tuppy. And so it goes...
DVD Verdict: The film is titled `A Good Woman,' but it is actually filmed version of Oscar Wilde play `Lady Windermere's Fan.' Wilde's original, which was put on stage in 1892 and became the first `hit' for Wilde, was set in the drawing room of end-of-the-century England, but `A Good Woman' shifted the background to the Amalfi coast (South Italy) in the 1930s. The director is Mike Barker from England (`To Kill a King'), but some of the main characters' roles are played by American actors. Two women play the central roles in `A Good Woman.' One is Mrs. Erlynne, `a woman of experience' (Helen Hunt, cast against type) a seductive middle-aged woman from New York. Shunned by the aristocratic society, she still hopes to win the love of gentleman - a rich gentleman - and here in Italy, it seems, she has already attracted some of them. One of them is `Tuppy' (delightful Tom Wilkinson), who refuses to listen to the rumor about Erlynne. The other woman is Lady Windermere, `a woman of innocence' (Scarlett Johansson), who is newly married, and devotes herself to her husband. After arriving at this beautiful Italian resort, however, her husband Lord Windermere (Mark Umbers) seems to have got nervous about something, some secret he knows, which lady's man Lord Darlington (Stephen Campbell Moore) also happen to notice in his checkbook. The film retains the basic storyline of Wilde's original. There is a twist (as in the original) which might or might not surprise you. All in all the filmed version is successful in maintaining our interest in the story, which gets melodramatic especially in the second half. The changed location is not a bad thing to me (the `stagy' films are not my cup of tea), but the changed times are a different matter. The 1930s is, I m afraid, too modern a period to make the rigid social conventions of late Victorian convincing. The first part of the film is, I think, considerably weakened by the changed situation and lengthy introduction. Here is another complaint. As the film's title suggests, `A Good Woman' is more about the ladies than about the gentlemen. That is good. Consequently, however, unlike the original play two male roles Lord Darlington and Lord Windermere look less impressive than the ones you meet in the book. This is a problem because many of the witty lines of Wilde are uttered by Lord Darlington and his character as a flirt plays an important role in the second half of the play. He should be more attractive, hopefully devilishly charming. You may object to the casting of Ms. Hunt and Ms. Johansson. I find Helen Hunt's lady Windermere sexually seductive enough, but not really seductive enough to make her look like a social climber. Not that her acting is bad, but you may name a name or two of someone who could play the same role as good as, or perhaps better than, Helen Hunt. `A Good Woman' is easy on the eye with two beautiful leading ladies in gorgeous costumes, and fun to see with intelligent dialogues (and it is Oscar Wilde, the genius, so why not witty after all?) The original play's social satire is no longer compelling, now. But `A Good Woman' is light-hearted, maybe too light-hearted you might say, but is still sweet and pleasant. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Director and Producer Commentary