A Good Woman

Oscar Wilde once described his first big stage smash Lady Windermere's Fan as "one of those modern drawing-room plays with pink lampshades," but here in Mike Barker's crisp, slightly updated adaptation (the action is now set in 1930), those frilly drawing rooms have been traded in for the sumptuous villas of one of the world's most ideal locations: Amalfi,...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Oscar Wilde once described his first big stage smash Lady Windermere's Fan as "one of those modern drawing-room plays with pink lampshades," but here in Mike Barker's crisp, slightly updated adaptation (the action is now set in 1930), those frilly drawing rooms have been traded in for the sumptuous villas of one of the world's most ideal locations: Amalfi, Italy. It's where the very rich, very beautiful and recently married American couple Robert (Mark Umbers) and Meg Windermere (Scarlett Johansson), have come to enjoy a glamorous season abroad, while escaping the misery of the Great Depression at home. Amalfi is also where the notorious American adventuress Mrs. Stella Erlynne (Helen Hunt) has chosen to spend the season, and the timing is far from a coincidence. After being drummed out of New York City by the jealous wives of the rich and powerful men she'd managed to seduce, Mrs. Erlynne has come to the Italian coast specifically to meet Robert Windermere, whom she manages to corner one afternoon in a fine-antiques shop. After encouraging the handsome American to purchase a rare fan for his wife's upcoming 21st birthday, Mrs. Erlynne then invites herself out for an espresso; within a few days of their meeting, Robert Windermere has upgraded her lodgings from a shabby boardinghouse to a handsome villa and is handing Mrs. Erlynne checks for substantial amounts of money. Mrs. Erlynne's vastly improved circumstances and wardrobe, not to mention Mr. Windermere's comings and goings from her new home, have captured the notice of nosy Contessa Lucchino (Milena Vukotic), who soon begins spreading the most vicious gossip about Mrs. Erlynne among the tony set of English expatriates at Amalfi. Most pretend to be shocked — shocked! — at this infamous woman's brazen behavior, except for "Tuppy" (Tom Wilkinson), aka Lord Augustus, who's fallen too far in love with the adventuring American to believe anything ill of her, and except for young Lord Darlington (Stephen Campbell Moore), one of those wickedly Wildean heroes who can resist just about anything but temptation. Darlington sees Robert's dishonesty as a sure means to seduce the young and very naive Meg, with whom he is desperately in love. Meg, however, has been raised by her Aunt Julia to be a "good woman" and won't even tolerate Darlington's flirting — until she herself finally gets wind of Robert's relationship with Mrs. Erlynne. Of course, there's a twist, but why spoil the fun? The production is beautifully costumed and cast, and Hunt acquits herself quite nicely while playing entirely against type. The real star, however, is the dialogue. Amazingly, not all of the witty and wise barbs are Wilde's, and any confusion between the old and the new is probably the highest compliment one could possibly pay to screenwriter Howard Himelstein's tart screenplay.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: PG
  • Review: Oscar Wilde once described his first big stage smash Lady Windermere's Fan as "one of those modern drawing-room plays with pink lampshades," but here in Mike Barker's crisp, slightly updated adaptation (the action is now set in 1930), those frilly drawing… (more)

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