Good Woman, A

MPAA Rating: PG

Entertainment: +3

Content: +2 1/2

Helen Hunt, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Wilkinson. W-Howard Himelstein. D-Mike Barker.

Set in the 1920s on the Italian Riviera, the elegant and witty romantic comedy comes from Oscar Wildes play Lady Windermeres Fan. Emerging penniless from yet another failed affair, the seductive Mrs. Erlynne (Hunt), scorned by many as a woman of ill repute, leaves New York for the Amalfi coast, where she hopes to find a new patron among the vacationing aristocrats. There she contends with mean-spirited gossip while finding a kind-hearted suitor in Lord Augustus (Wilkinson). But whats this? Is the seductive Mrs. Erlynne also seducing a newly married man? And whats her past relationship to his wife?

There are both a huge plus and a distracting minus to this production. During our presnet era of gross-out humor, when most comics and comic filmmakers rely on bodily functions and obscene language to get a yuk, the makers of A Good Woman have decided to reinvestigate the seldom-used sophisticated wit of Oscar Wilde. Thats the plus. Of course, his type of humor also stems from a skewed view of life, usually one buoyed by drollery laced with snide sarcasm. It is a dying form as it depends on the audiences ability to listen and reason out the witty wordplay. That takes more effort, both for moviemakers and moviegoers. Anyhoo, the film is loaded with quips, bons mots and spicy repartee, each delivered by men who carry flasks and women who signal sexual intent by the way they hold a fan.

As to the distracting minus, it has to do with the central cast member, Helen Hunt. Ms. Hunt is extremely talented, but here she doesnt radiate the qualities her character depends upon. Shes just not 1930s. Whats more, shes supposed to be an alluring 40-something. Though an attractive woman, Ms. Hunt just isnt the best choice for representing an aging lost-generation beauty. To be fair, its difficult to find a 40-something actress to fit this role, or any role, for that matter. Like Stepford wives, actresses nearing their fourth decade suddenly disappear into the night, replaced by younger versions. This tragedy is never addressed by movie actresses until their Champaign-fueled 39th birthday party. But by then, they know they are doomed, for it is not an industry that cherishes aging starlets.

Besides not looking the part, Ms. Hunt chose to deliver her lines in a strident upper octave, ending each sentence with an upward inflection. It quickly became an annoying speech pattern. Who knows why she chose this delivery style or why she wasnt reined in by her director? Swayed by the ghost of Mr. Wilde, I mocked that speech pattern throughout the day How are YOU? What time is IT?

Fortunately, Ms. Hunt is only periodically on screen, which allows us intermittent moments with a well-written story, enhanced by beautiful locales and an array of whimsical characters. We become engrossed in this 30s portrait, with its mixture of drama, humor, intrigue and sacrificial love. The only thing missing is ole Gatsby, himself. Then Ms. Hunt reenters with her incessant upward inflections and contemporary blandness. Why didnt they just cast Ava Gardner? Ohright.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Lion's Gate Films

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: a different kind of crudity, rather than bathroom humor, the jokes here come from cynicism and mockery.

Obscene Language: a couple of minor expletives

Profanity: None

Violence: a jealous man punches another

Sex: its talked about a lot, but all we see is a loving married couple in tender afterglow

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: Oh yeah, but its not blatant, but rather implied, hinted and often delivered, wrapped in humorous prose

Drugs: Theyre rich, its the 1920s, so they drink, a lot.

Other: Though surrounded by earthy conversational exchange, and the lead character is amoral, it is actually a morality play. Several characters make sacrifices in the name of love. Indeed, love between husband and wife is ultimately supported.

Running Time: 105 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults, those who own a tuxedo or Cary Grant movies.

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