A Good Woman

A Good Woman


Reviewed by: Kotleta

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."

Adapted from Oscar Wilde's play, Lady Windermere's Fan, Mike Barker's film transplants the action from the parlours of London's aristocracy to the 1930s Italian Riviera, transforming this social satire into a very grown-up and surprisingly modern romantic comedy in the process. Merchant Ivory fans will be in heaven; the costumes and make-up are delicious enough to re-ignite the fashion for marcel waves and tea dresses, or at the very least, do wonders for the millinery industry.

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Rich newlywed New Yorkers Robert and Meg Windermere (Mark Umbers and Scarlett Johansson) have come to Amalfi for the summer, joining a jet-set community from Europe and America. Their holiday is marred by the arrival of Mrs Erlynne (Helen Hunt), a fellow American with a less than impeccable reputation. Stella Erlynne is the proverbial tart with a heart, a divorcee jezebel who lives off the kindness and chequebooks of her many lovers, but whose lifestyle is jeopardised when their unforgiving wives find out. Robert and Stella share a secret and its not long before everyone is gossiping about their relationship. The only person who suspects nothing is Meg. The situation is complicated by an intricate web of relationships. Lord Darlington (Stephen Campbell More) loves Meg; Tuppy (Tom Wilkinson) loves Stella and Lady Plymdale (Diana Hardcastle) loves Tuppy. Meg loves her husband Robert, but whom does Robert love?

It's all very messy and in the real world would clearly end in tears, but Hunt gives a bittersweet and witty performance that has you crossing your fingers for a happy ending. Ironically enough, she had her own secret whilst filming - she was pregnant and the only person on set who knew was the director. It seems somehow wrong to adapt an Oscar Wilde play and not cast Stephen Fry, but Wilkinson makes a very funny and less obviously gay substitute.

Sadly, there's little for poor Scarlett to get her talents into. The character of Lady Windermere has lost both her stiff-upper lip and her best lines, so she has to content herself with giving a master class in the Colin Farrell style of acting - lots of fluttering lashes, quivering lips and darting eyes. It's a shame, as this is the only aspect in which the film lets the play down.

Wilde's biting dialogue is the perfect antidote to the sentimentality that a film about love, secrets and betrayal can so rarely avoid, but you'll still find yourself smiling soppily in the darkness. Just as well nobody can see...

Reviewed on: 13 May 2005
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Film adaptation of Lady Windemere's Fan.
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Scott Macdonald ***

Director: Mike Barker

Writer: Howard Himelstein, based on Lady Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde

Starring: Helen Hunt, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Wilkinson, Stephen Campbell More, Mark Umbers, Milena Vukotic, Diana Hardcastle, Roger Hammond, Jane How

Year: 2004

Runtime: 93 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: Spain/Italy/UK/Luxembourg/US


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