A Good Woman
Dir. Mike Barker. 2004. PG. 93mins. Helen Hunt, Mark Umbers, Scarlett Johansson, Stephen Campbell Moore.
Who would have thought we’d have ever been impressed by Hunt? We wrote her off as a has-been TV star and an Oscar-win fluke, but here she gives a sly, sparkling and sad portrayal of Mrs. Erlynne, an aging New York gold-digger on the run from her past. Loosely adapted from Oscar Wilde’s play Lady Windermere’s Fan, the story has been moved from the stuffy drawing rooms of late-19th-century England to the golden glow of Italy’s Amalfi coast in 1930.
Mrs. Erlynne sets her sights on Mr. Windermere (Umbers), a young, wealthy American banker. Problem is, there’s already a Mrs. Windermere (a radiant Johansson, a bit out of her element). The good news for Mrs. Erlynne is that cad playboy Lord Darlington (Moore) fully intends to flirt Mrs. Windermere away from her distracted hubby. Meanwhile, the secretive Mrs. Erlynne is being courted by the lonely, wealthy Lord “Tuppy” Augustus (the always-solid Tom Wilkinson) while vacationing British snobs provide an ongoing Greek chorus of gossip and bitchiness.
Yes, it all boils down to soap opera, but with the splendid locales, stunning costumes and elegant interiors, it all goes down easy, thanks in part to the winning Hunt. This is definitely for any romantic who’s a sucker for a witty Wilde quip and too much champagne.—Matt Keppel