I do not really remember how my seeing this came to pass, but it would seem accurate that it was an “on a whim” rental. Recently I found it at a going-out-of-business sale and decided to nab it at a low cost.
The wealthy and influentially powerful follow society’s lead and are often abroad for “the season.” Over the summer months one of the locales that has brought out the cream of society is the Italian coast. Robert Windermere (Mark Umbers) and his young wife Meg (Scarlett Johansson) have been married a year but are most happy; their marriage is based on mutual trust and love. Shortly after they arrive and settle in their charming villa – found by a former co-worker of Robert’s, a fellow American traveler arrives in the small Italian village. Leaving behind scandal in her wake, Mrs. Erlynne (Helen Hunt) trades one gossip-laden society for another. She is penniless but before long she sets the village’s gossip tongues a wagging. Nearly as soon as she arrives, she is set up in a lovely apartment, has a line of credit at the dress shops and soon catches the eye of the dim-witted (by his own admission!) but very wealthy Tuppy (Tom Wilkinson). Robert’s friend Lord Darlington (Stephan Campbell-Moore) is also mingling in Italy for the season while living on his yacht. Meg unwittingly attracts John’s attentions and despite her repeated requests that he stop flattering her, he begs her indulgence -- as a friend but makes it no great secret that he likes her.
Conservative and not a girl to act out in public or drink, Meg is a little astounded at all the compliments and praise heaped on her by this notorious playboy. Anticipating her twenty-first birthday, Meg is overlooks Robert’s uncomfortable flirting, too giddy with excitement over Robert’s loving indulgence. But when he is seen coming and leaving Mrs. Erlynne’s house at all hours of the day, it sends the gossips into a twitter of excitement… but is there more than one secret at stake?
Seeing this the second time through, I’ve no doubt that I grew to like it a little better. Oscar Wilde is one of my favorite playwrights when it comes to seeing his original work adapted into witty screenplays (An Ideal Husband, Importance of Being Earnest). This might be one of his lesser works, but it is just as fun and intricate a story. Its better points set up to be a comedy but as the viewer, we really cannot see that until everything comes to a head at its close. So for that reason alone, a lot of the movie sets up like a mini mystery without really meaning too and features some bang-up talent in the meantime. Who’d have guessed pairing such an ensemble together would work magic? Somehow it works to the movie’s advantage and every single subplot works like clockwork. There is a little twist nearer the end and even though it isn’t hard to figure out, it essentially “makes” the movie and alleviates the disdain growing for certain characters; nearly all of whom are at least likable, if not completely trustworthy.
Unfortunately, even with a lesser rating, this isn’t age-appropriate for everyone. It does explore some interesting dilemmas. Lamenting a lie she told her husband, Meg is determined to tell him but counseled against it – since she made the mistake, and it was her choice, Robert shouldn’t be made to bear the “burden” of such a mistake. This probably isn’t something many people have seen or even heard of, but it is well worth at least the dollar rental fee. Its costuming isn’t lacking and many of the pieces are truly gorgeous. The hats and lightweight summering costuming is among some of the most beautiful, even compared to BBC’s masterpieces. I truly enjoyed this, originally known as Mrs. Windermere’s Fan, and am glad to have found it at a reasonable price since I think I’ll be entertained by repeat viewings every now and again. Pacing is admittedly slower and less rushed, but never so that we feel bored with the ideas. Its script is witty and tolerably clever without being too full of itself and in the end, it disproves something we’ve all been guilty of doing – forming incorrect first impressions.
(Concerns: Lots of conversation revolves around affairs; one woman is said to have slept with nearly everyone’s husband and a man attempts to seduce a married woman [kisses, promises of love and better life, etcetera]. Some revealing clothing is worn much to the shock of the prim and proper. Drinking is in several scenes and in the final scenes, several people become drunk; one punch is thrown. Several scenes are a bit sensual. Sheets covering them, a married couple are shown lying in bed post-sex, beforehand, there was some flirtation; one man wants to stay the night with his companion but she sends him away. [Although married, someone nearly runs off with another.] A Good Woman is rated PG.)