A Good Woman (2004)
A Decent Movie for a Good Woman
If we are always guided by other people's thoughts what the point of having our own - Mrs. Erlynne
As a rule "A Good Woman" is the sort of movie I tend to stay clear of, being a period drama and an adaptation of an Oscar Wilde play, two things which rarely appeal to me. But because it features Helen Hunt and is set against the backdrop of the Amalfi coastline I found myself watching. And to be honest I was pleasantly surprised because rather than being a stuffy period drama "A Good Woman" is a witty tale of confusion and mistaken identity. It's by no means a great movie, but between a decent script, some nice acting from not only Helen Hunt but most of the cast and that wonderful Amalfi coastline it is both entertaining and amusing.
The year is 1930 and having found herself penniless the infamous Mrs. Erlynne (Helen Hunt - What Women Want), a lady who according to gossip is of ill repute, leaves New York for Italy and the Amalfi coast where she plans to spend time with the rich and in particular the recently married Robert Windermere (Mark Umbers) who along with his wife Meg (Scarlett Johansson - Lost in Translation) are holidaying there. Soon the local socialites start to gossip when Robert spends time with Mrs. Erlynne whilst Meg finds herself fending off the flirtatious Lord Darlington (Stephen Campbell Moore - Bright Young Things) who has fallen head over heals in love with her. And whilst this is going on Mrs. Erlynne also finds herself being charmed by Tuppy (Tom Wilkinson - The Full Monty) an English nobleman. But is everything as it seems especially when Meg discovers that her husband has been spending time with Mrs. Erlynne.
I won't profess to being an expert on the works of Oscar Wilde and as such I can't say how much of his play has been retained in "A Good Woman" or whether it has been ripped apart but what we get is a fun movie of basically two halves. The first half of "A Good Woman" goes about setting up the characters and leading us to think certain things especially about Mrs. Erlynne a lady with a reputation and not a good one at that. As such we watch as recently married Robert Windermere is spotted visiting her, whilst Lord Darlington flirts with Robert's wife Meg and at the same time there is Tuppy who has feelings for Mrs. Erlynne. All of which is delivered via some gossipy scenes as the socialites in the small coastal town watch all of this going on and gossip amongst themselves. It's all very amusing and leads us to think one thing but at the same time question what we are thinking especially surrounding the meetings between Robert and Mrs. Erlynne.
Hit the half way point and we discover the truth, we discover exactly what the relationship is between Robert and Mrs. Erlynne and whilst not a huge surprise is just one of the various possibilities which go through your head prior to the revelation. And so what follows is the mess which comes about from various misunderstandings such as Meg discovering, thanks to some gentle prodding from Lord Darlington, that Robert has been giving Mrs. Erlynne money with it all coming to a head at a party. It is all very amusing as we watch the confusion spiral out of control the whole time Mrs. Erlynne and Robert doing their best to keep a secret concealed.
These two halves of "A Good Woman" work well to be both amusing but also captivating because when we learn the truth we then have to wonder how they can stop it from coming out and what the consequences will be of keeping things a secret. It makes for a sort of clever movie and with the stunning Amalfi coastline providing the back drop and some wonderful costumes you find yourself being drawn into this tale of misunderstanding.
That doesn't stop "A Good Woman" from having issues and one of those for me is the character of Meg rather than the acting of Scarlett Johansson. It just feels that Meg is such a wet character and maybe that was the intention but compared to the other characters that are all much stronger it just feels wrong and at times annoying. Aside from my issue with Meg it has to be said that the rest of the characters are both fun and well rounded. Helen Hunt is wonderful as Mrs. Erlynne and makes for a wonderful scarlet lady as she almost revels in her notoriety for courting men. And Mark Umbers, Stephen Campbell Moore and Tom Wilkinson all do good jobs as the various pivotal men delivering witty dialogue with dead pan sincerity.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "A Good Woman" isn't the sort of thing I would generally choose to watch it was entertaining. The whole storyline around mistaken identity and confusion is good fun and for the most well acted even if I did find the character of Meg a bit too wet. And as an added bonus there is the backdrop of the stunning Amalfi coastline which is captivating.
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