Film Review **: Weak Script Hinders Film About Immorality
Unconvincing Conflicts and Acting in ...A Good Woman...
By Parama Pal
A Good Woman
Directed by Mike Barker
Written by Howard Himelstein
Starring Helen Hunt, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Wilkinson, Stephen Campbell Moore, Mark Umbers
Set in the 1930s, Mike Barker’s “A Good Woman” addresses the issue of what defines a good woman relative to rules of societal morality. Based on Oscar Wilde’s play “Lady Windermere’s Fan,” the story begins with a trio of ladies gossiping about the notorious Mrs. Erlynne (Helen Hunt). It becomes apparent that Erlynne is infamous for having countless affairs with various men to support herself, and that at the moment she is without a benefactor and living in poverty. After setting her sights on a young couple (Robert and Meg Windermere, played by Mark Umbers and Scarlett Johansson) featured in a newspaper article, she goes off to the Italian Riviera in pursuit. The movie follows her apparent seduction of Robert, and shows what happens when a predatory friend of his capitalizes on Meg’s doubts to convince her to leave her husband. Meanwhile, another man (Tom Wilkinson) courts Erlynne, in hopes that she will accept his hand in marriage.
As the story continues, family secrets come to light and the ways in which the characters deal with them make up the true meat of the movie. Scenes change without any transitions, and as a result, the story is stilted and obvious. Despite the title “A Good Woman,” the first two-thirds of the film focus on portraying Erlynne as immoral and materialistic; unfortunately this time could have been much better spent developing the scenes and interactions between the characters.
Hunt was only given a few obvious attempts to develop her character through the second half of the film, and her script was somewhat cumbersome. Her artificial lines rob her of a certain sincerity that is essential to addressing the movie’s main question: what defines a good woman?
Johansson delivers an average performance, seeming excessively innocent and na ve, a disappointment considering her reputation. Other actors do better, most notably Wilkinson, whose performance is without a doubt the best in the film.
Unfortunately, the film ends too neatly, falling into the classic Hollywood trap of building up conflict and then giving every character an easy way out. “A Good Woman” is a movie with an interesting premise, but one that could have been far better presented.