A Good Woman


Directed by: Mike Barker
Written by:Howard Himelstein
Starring: Helen Hunt, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Wilkinson, Stephen Campbell Moore, Mark Umbers
Released: June 23, 2005
Grade: A-

He isn’t as well known as William Shakespeare but the writings of Oscar Wilde are just as good, if not better.  Over 100 films have been made from his plays and novels.  There was even a film made about the man himself – 1997’s Wilde starring Stephen Fry and Jude Law.  Oscar Wilde works you may be familiar with include The Importance Of Being Earnest, The Picture Of Dorian Gray and An Ideal Husband.

A Good Woman is an adaptation of Wilde’s novel, Lady Windermere’s Fan.  If I was a devoted Oscar Wilde fan, I would have read this novel many times and seen a few of the cinematic adaptations.  I would then be more critical of the film and looking much closely at its faithfulness to the novel.

Not having read the book has worked to my advantage in seeing this film.  From a first timer’s perspective, it’s a witty story filled with hilariously intelligent dialogue.  Wilde knows so much about the relationships of men and women and can phrase things in a way that can only leave you with a smile on your face.  I could see Woody Allen writing similar material if he was around 150 years ago.

Mrs. Erlynne (Hunt) is a mysterious seductress who has been spending a great deal of time with a married man, Robert Windermere (Umbers).  The townspeople have noticed the gossip is spreading like wildfire.  Robert’s young wife (Johansson) is oblivious however and believes her relationship with her husband to be one of complete truth.  It all climaxes with a lavish party thrown in honour of Lady Windermere’s birthday where many secrets are revealed.  There are uproarious misinterpretations, comical coincidences and a finale which brings everything back into balance.

We haven’t seen much of Helen Hunt on the big screen since winning an Oscar in 1998 for As Good As It Gets.  Believe it or not, she’s appeared in just 5 films on the big screen in the last 7 years.  I’m not sure why but it’s good to see her back.  I enjoyed her performance along with those of co-stars Scarlett Johansson (Lost In Translation) and Tom Wilkinson (In The Bedroom).  Wilkinson is particularly sharp.

As you can tell though, the writing is what I enjoyed most about A Good Woman.  If you share my tastes, you’re sure to find the film a treat.