A Good Woman (2004) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The critics didn't much care for this interpretation of a famous Oscar Wilde play called Lady Windemere's Fan, but I found it worth the watch. The first half of it was too glib, with various characters simply competing to mouth Wilde's aphorisms, as if in an HBO comedy contest. But glib is not all bad. It was modestly entertaining throughout. Wilde's droll humor still holds up fairly well, and the screenwriter modernized it a tad to make it seem peppier to our ears. (Some critics objected to his having tampered with the master's words, but that didn't bother me.) The second half of the film, I felt, was better, more heartfelt. The characters got off their high horses, stopped orating, and started to develop some genuine human emotions in between the cynical comments.

One thing I simply could not figure out was the reason for the screenwriter having taken the action out of Victorian London to locate it in Italy in the 1930's, with several American characters. I mean, why not either leave it in its original context or go the whole distance and try to make it work in modern times (which is cheaper than designing period sets and costumes)? After having thought about it, I concluded that the decision was more or less arbitrary. The American characters were undoubtedly added as a marketing decision, to cast some American stars with name recognition (Helen Hunt, Scarlett Johannson).  Moving it out of Victorian England allowed Scarlett and Helen to wear sexy outfits, but keeping it out of modern times allowed the director to create a bit of extra atmosphere and to evoke the special Art Deco mystique of the Jazz Age. It also permitted the characters to get away with a more formal manner of speech than would have seemed credible in our times. Why Italy? Beats me, but the Italian locales were simply elegant and beautiful, and just seemed to suit Wilde's refined sensibilities.

So you have some nice sentimental moments, a couple of decent plot twists, lots of Wilde's witty and cynical observations, Tom Wilkinson stealing the show with his usual outstanding bit of characterization as the self-deprecating Tuppy, and Scarlett Johansson wearing revealing clothing. That's enough positives to add up to an experience which is quite pleasant, if insubstantial.



  • the widescreen transfer is anamorphically enhanced
  • there is a full-length commentary by the producer and director



Scarlett Johannson shows a tiny bit of areola in a scene which requires her to crawl around in a low-cut dress. (But it's too dark to make out without enhancement.)

Helen Hunt wears the same dress, but does not crawl.

The Critics Vote ...

  • UK press: two and a half stars out of four. Mail 4/10, Times 4/10, Telegraph 6/10, Independent 2/10, Guardian 4/10, Sun 6/10, Express 6/10, Mirror 8/10, FT 6/10, BBC 3/5.


The People Vote ...

  • Box Office Mojo. $238,000 in arthouse distribution in February, 2006. (35 theaters.)
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


Based on this description, this film is a C, solid niche film for a more refined middlebrow audience.

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