Mike Barker’s film takes great pains to keep the relationship between its two central characters—a Mrs. Erlynne and a Mrs. Windermere—shrouded in mystery. So the revelation, midway through the movie, will come as something less than a bombshell for anyone who read Lady Windermere’s Fan in high school. A Good Woman scrambles the order of Oscar Wilde’s narrative and gives the proceedings a Merchant-Ivory gloss by transporting them to Amalfi, playground of the rich during the 1930s: lots of cloche hats and posh accents.
Helen Hunt stars as glamorous, middle-aged Mrs. Erlynne, who descends upon the coastal village where a coterie of English and American tourists pass their holidays drinking and gossiping. She is courted by wealthy, good-natured Tuppy (Tom Wilkinson), but everyone assumes she’s having an affair with handsome young Mr. Windermere (Mark Umbers), while Lord Darlington (Campbell-Moore), a clever rou, makes moves on girlish Mrs. Windermere (Johansson).
It’s a capable team of actors, curiously miscast. Even done up with blood-red lipstick and plunging dcolletage, Hunt is too pert and pleasing to impress as Mrs. Erlynne. Campbell-Moore hasn’t the sharpness for Darlington, and Johansson—well, let’s just say that after her unforgettably sultry turn in Match Point, audiences may find her a less than credible ingenue. Wilde’s wit and heart are more or less intact, but the whole stylish exercise seems rather beside the point. (Opens Fri; see Index for venues.)—Tom Beer