A review of “A Good Woman” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: PG for adult situations and language

Run Time: 1 hour, 33 minutes

 

 

Scarlett Johansson brings her tempered self to the table in this stagy but entertaining film adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s classic stage play “Lady Windermere’s Fan”.

Meg Windermere (Johansson) has it all; the gorgeous, adoring husband, a rock the size of Gibraltar and a summer home on the Italian Riviera circa 1932. All is right with the world until the unceremonious arrival of seductive Stella Erlynne (Helen Hunt), a wanton gold-digger who lands on the Amalfi coast and immediately sets her sights on dishy Robert Windermere (Mark Umbers).

Naturally the ingenuous Meg won’t listen to the gossip, preferring to believe the best of everyone. While the lady Erlynne woos her hubby Meg herself becomes the love object of cad-about-town Lord Darlington (Stephen Campbell Moore) who toys with the idea of tipping off the innocent lamb in order to thwart her marriage and have her all to himself.

The romantic roundelay is a knotty affair. As Stella works her wiles on the quintessential younger man the distinguished and kind-hearted Lord Augustus (the always spot-on Tom Wilkinson) falls for her execution, proposing marriage and turning a blind eye to her shady past.

This big old period cheeseball is rife with deliciously amorous melodrama and sumptuous Italian vistas peppered with Wilde’s cutting wit and wisdom. Wealthy tongues wag (“You’ve been buying idle gossip and you need to get a refund”) and spite trumps all (“Her hair turned quite gold with grief”) as Meg navigates the elegant malignity and studied ennui of the privileged upper class.

The players try hard to invoke a passionate flair that periodically turns theatrical but a snappy twist of a climax marks this social satire with a scarlet A for effort.