Combustible Celluloid

A Good Woman (2006)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

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By Jeffrey M. Anderson

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You know you're in trouble when someone adapts Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan and changes the title to something totally forgettable. Director Mike Barker (Best Laid Plans) doesn't quite get the right cast in the right parts, and appears flummoxed by the play's tone; he never knows when to play a scene for its comic or dramatic implications. Helen Hunt stars as Mrs. Erlynne, a serial seducer who has left a trail of happy, penniless husbands and angry wives in her wake. To escape her latest escapade, she voyages to Venice, where newlyweds Robert (Mark Umbers) and Meg Windermere (Scarlett Johansson) have recently landed. In need of cash, Mrs. Erlynne immediately hooks up with the hapless Robert, but not for the reasons we -- and Meg -- expect. Tom Wilkinson steals the film as Tuppy, the elder, wealthy bachelor who sets his sights on Mrs. Erlynne; he appears to be the only one correctly cast and in complete command of the material. Ironically, Ernst Lubitsch's 1925 silent version far better captured the play's silly tenor, but the new A Good Woman screenplay, adapted by Howard Himelstein, at least has the benefit of Wilde's spoken dialogue, and it's intermittently quite fun.

Starring: Helen Hunt, Tom Wilkinson, Scarlett Johansson, Stephen Campbell Moore, Mark Umbers
Written by: Howard Himelstein, based on a play by Oscar Wilde
Directed by: Mike Barker
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic material, sensuality and language
Running Time: 93 minutes
Date: February 3, 2006{subid}&url=hitlist.asp?searchfield=marvel
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