A Good Woman – DVD Review

Directed by:
Mike Barker

Starring:
Helen Hunt ………. Mrs. Erlynne
Scarlett Johansson ………. Meg Windermere
Mark Umbers ………. Robert Windemere
Tom Wilkinson ………. Tuppy
Milena Vukotic ………. Contessa Lucchino
Stephen Campbell Moore ………. Lord Darlington
Roger Hammond ………. Cecil
Diana Hardcastle ………. Lady Plymdale

Lions Gate Films presents A Good Woman. Written by Howard Himelstein, based on the play “Lady Windermere’s Fan” by Oscar Wilde. Running Time: 93 minutes. Rated PG for thematic material, sensuality and language. Available on DVD: June 13, 2006.

The Movie


Scarett Johansson is an actress who’s fame has only gotten higher over the past year, so when I was given the opportunity to review an earlier work of hers on DVD, I jumped at the chance. There’s something about the young actress that has that old classic Hollywood starlet appeal, she just has something about her that demands your attention when she walks on screen. A Good Woman was filmed just after she wrapped filming on Lost in Translation and Girl with a Pearl Earring, meaning that the film was made nearly two years ago, only getting a limited release in the US in February of this year. Not a very good sign.

Set during the depression era, A Good Woman is about a group of socialites who have traveled to Europe in order to get away from the States. In that group are the young couple Robert and Meg Windermere, who are about to celebrate their one year anniversary together. However things get rocky when Mrs. Erlynne arrives in town, Erlynne is a man eater, she seduces rich men and takes them for all their worth, and she has her sights set on Mr. Windermere. She quickly has him and it doesn’t take long before her plans of blackmailing him begin. She doesn’t stop there however, Erlynne begins trolling around the city and finds a few other men to fulfill her needs, most notably Tuppy who is keen to her game but couldn’t care less. What plays out in the movie is the art of misconception and a little bit of how word of mouth isn’t to be trusted.

The writers go so far with reworking the story and characters that they chose to include memorable quotes from Bernard Shaw, Ben Franklin and Winstone Churchill. Proving that they in fact could stray even further from the source material. Still, there are quite a few Wilde double entendres that slip in every once in a while making the film fun to watch at times but the spaces between can be torturous.

Helen Hunt, who is miscast from the beginning, seems like she’s in a completely different movie than the one we’re watching. Hunt has a very homely appearance, a woman you’d want to take home to your mother, one who even in her glory days was more of a girl next door than a femme fetal. So when she’s called upon to be the object of every mans desire here it’s almost cringing to watch. Even if the character she plays is one who’s seen many years there is still a lack of believability in the way she portrays the character. Scarett Johansson doesn’t once seem comfortable with the lines given to her to read in the film, she holds her own, but she’s basically wasted. The only saving grace in the production is Tom Wilkinson who is always a charmer no matter what film he’s in.

A Good Woman seems at first like a film paying homage to cinema during the late 40’s, but then slowly falls in to yet another period piece that’s all style and no substance. If the people behind this were so intent on reworking the entire concept of the story then why not just update it to a modern take? In that case the actors chosen for their roles may have come off more natural and left audiences to suspend their disbelief, and perhaps, enjoy the movie.

The DVD


Video:
(Presented in 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen)
The transfer for the movie is a little on the soft side, not too noticeable but it’s there. There is the occasional hint of grain or speck of dust that pop up and a minor occurrence of edge enhancement. One odd thing I noticed is that the film is released in 1.78, and this is a Lionsgate release. I’m wondering if this is yet another title that they’re hacking up in order to please those who can’t stand black bars on their widescreen TV’s.

Audio:
(English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround)
Oscar Wilde wrote stories about people, so don’t expect much from the audio selection here. What’s important is that all of his wit and charm (what’s actually left in the film) comes out crystal clear for your hearing pleasure, and it does wonderfully.

Extras:

Feature Length Commentary – Director Mike Barker and producer Alan Greenspan at the start of the track talk about how much they loved the play, then go in to a long discussion about how they changed just about every single thing about it. Scenery and locations are talked about at great length where the two men share all the European countries the film was shot in. Another thing brought up a lot in the commentary is the production crew who they can’t speak enough about. By the end of the movie the track is sparse at best where they interject very sparingly.

Also included on the DVD are seven trailers: Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Cat’s Meow, Dogville, Beyond the Sea, The Cooler, Danny Deckchair and Stage Beauty.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for A Good Woman
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

3.5
THE VIDEO

7
THE AUDIO

7
THE EXTRAS

3.5
REPLAY VALUE

1.5
OVERALL
3
(NOT AN AVERAGE)

The Inside Pulse
With this film you get an adaptation that through all its incarnations no longer resembles what it first set out to accomplish. With barely average performances across the board and a very mundane direction style, A Good Woman is something that is best left ignored.