A Good Woman (PG)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner10/05/2005

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 93 mins

Enjoyable, well made period drama with a witty, engaging script and strong performances from Johansson, Hunt and Wilkinson.

Given that A Good Woman is so closely adapted from Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan, it’s somewhat surprising that they didn’t just choose to keep the original title. At any rate, it’s a well made, enjoyable period drama with strong performances from its three leads. It’s also a damn sight better than the last Wilde adaptation, The Importance of Being Earnest.

Action Relocated From England To Amalfi Coast

The film relocates the action from Victorian England to the Amalfi coast in the 1930s and recasts Lady Margaret (or ‘Meg’) Windermere as a young American, played by Scarlett Johansson. She’s honeymooning in Amalfi with her wealthy husband Robert (Mark Umbers), where they quickly fall in with the local expat community and their booze-and-gossip-fuelled afternoons.

The arrival of the notorious man-eater and gold-digger Mrs Erlynne (Helen Hunt) sets tongues wagging as the expats speculate on the identity of her intended target, particularly when one of them spots Robert paying her a clandestine visit.

At first, Meg refuses to believe her husband is being unfaithful but the evidence begins to mount up and an attractive young Lord (Stephen Campbell Moore) is ready to step in, should the opportunity arise.

Meanwhile, kindly expat “Tuppy” (Tom Wilkinson) sets his sights on Mrs Erlynne and doesn’t want to take ‘No’ for an answer…

Script Reads Like Book Of Quotations

The script is witty and engaging and it crackles with Wilde’s famous one-liners such as “Her hair turned quite gold with grief” or “Sausages and woman – if you want to enjoy them, never watch the preparation of either.”

In fact, there are so many famous lines that the film occasionally resembles a book of quotations, despite the fact that they genuinely derive from the play. (Moore plays the Wilde-like figure, so naturally he gets most of the best lines).

Scarlett Johansson displays the same aptitude for period drama that she showed in Girl With A Pearl Earring (which, coincidentally, also starred Tom Wilkinson). She’s extremely good here and manages to seem naïve and vulnerable without tipping into melodramatics. Wilkinson is excellent as Tuppy – the character could easily be played as stupid but Wilkinson gives him a genuine warmth that’s extremely moving. Helen Hunt is also good, although she’s not quite convincing enough as a man-hungry gold-digger – perhaps she should have vamped it up a little.

In addition, there’s good work from a supporting cast that includes Roger Hammond and John Standing as well as Jane How, who EastEnders fans may remember as Dirty Den’s upper-class mistress Jan. It’s Moore who’s the stand-out in the supporting cast, however – after this and Bright Young Things he’s in severe danger of being type-cast…

Finally, the film looks fantastic, with close attention to period detail and impressive location work.

In short, A Good Woman is an enjoyable, well made film with strong performances and a decent script. Worth seeing.

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Content updated: 19/10/2017 00:56

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