Published Mar 01, 2006The self-conscious voiceover that starts A Good Woman is the first, but certainly not the last, sign that the film's in trouble. Helen Hunt's character tells us something she easily could have shown us. Then again, when a story is this flawed, it almost seems redundant to discuss it at all.
Helen Hunt plays Mrs. Erlynne, a professional mistress who travels the globe in search of wealthy marriages to plunder. After running out of targets in NYC, she flies to Italy where she works her "magic" on Robert Windermere (Mark Umbers), who's married to Meg (Scarlett Johansson). The local collection of expatriates gossip, rumours fly and, you guessed it, hearts get broken.
A Good Woman, based on Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan, is predictable, clumsy and unbelievable. It's difficult to buy Helen Hunt as a "woman of ill repute" who could lure an attractive young man away from Johansson. There's a laughable scene in which Hunt brandishes a fan, talks about courting rituals and proposes the affair; there's no subtext, and more importantly, no chemistry. When the "big turnaround" comes, the damage is done and there's no reason for the viewer to invest further in the story.
Tom Wilkinson gives a strong supporting performance as Tuppy, a wealthy local who falls for Mrs. Erlynne, and Johansson does what she can to add depth to her two-dimensional character. The theme of perfectionism versus reality is relevant, even moving, but ultimately, viewing A Good Woman is like getting stuck in a traffic jam; you want it to end so you can be on your way. (Maple)