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In 1930, Mrs. Erlynne, who describes herself as poor and infamous, driven from New York society by jealous wives, sees a news photo of wealthy Lord Windermere and his young wife: she heads for the Amalfi Coast to be among the rich and famous for 'the season' and to snare Mr. Windermere. Gossips twitter as he spends his afternoons with her, his wife blissfully innocent as she blushingly fends off attentions from a young English nobleman, an international playboy who thinks he's in love. Mrs. Erlynne is also pursued by a worldly-wise older English nobleman. Mrs. Windermere's 20th birthday party approaches, where all plays out amid numerous amoral Wildean aphorisms. Written by
Some people reading this review will almost certainly brand me uncultured and insensitive. For the record, I know by heart every Oscar Wilde work, all his quotations, and where they came from.
Oscar Wilde was a genius, and these hacks who tore apart "Lady Windermere's Fan", changed the title to "A Good Woman", and passed it off as their own did nothing but to tarnish Wilde's reputation.
Those who read or saw the original play would have a good idea what is going on in the film. So I am not going to say much about the plot, since there is little deviation between the two versions. What's different, are the time (from the late 1800s to the 1930s), the setting (in Italy instead of in England), and the nationalities (the Windermeres are now Americans). Maybe, the filmmakers need an excuse to hire Italian hand (since it is also a British-Italian co-production) and so, the easiest way is to set it on Italian land. This is where the problem starts.
The whole dialog was rewritten so that they would sound more "working class", and more natural to our supposed untrained ears. The new lines are nothing but artificial and trite. It sounds like everyone has a sock in their mouth. For a good measure, the writers threw in as many recognizable Oscar Wilde quotes as they possibly can. Sorry, no dice. I know where they came from, and I don't find their use particularly deep or witty, and I definitely don't feel cultured listening to them, no matter how heavy a British or Italian accent there was.
Helen Hunt comes across as blend and had that "whatever" attitude. She made a whore of out Mrs. Erlynne, not a seductress that she was meant to be. Scarlett Johansson appeared too immature for the role and didn't have the kind of strength that a Wildian heroine would usually demand. The male leads, Mark Umbers (as Windermere) and Stephen Campbell Moore (as Darlington) had little opportunity to shine. This is disappointing, especially for the latter. In short it's awful. Even the actors knew it, so they just took the, "what the hell, it pays the bills" approach.
The marginally redeeming factor was Tom Wilkinson. He did his part exactly what was entailed. It would have worked in the original play, because he was the only one who saw right through the seductress (a factor that eventually won Mrs. Erlynne's affection). Here, he is just another man who sympathized with her (mostly due to the fact that Mrs. Erlynne's role was demoted to a hair short of a whore).
Overall, the flow of events and lines were just thrown right at the audience with little sense, or expectations, or both.
Finally, if you don't like this movie someone tells you you're an uncultured brute, you can tell them this. The tag line, "Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future" came from "The picture of Dorian Gray."
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