A Good Woman ★★★

This is a somewhat bizarre treatment of an Oscar Wilde play that shifts incredibly between tones.

On the one hand, there is the lightly comic and extreme wit coming from the Wildean dialogue and characters. Vukotic and Hammond bring great performances to their supporting roles whilst Stephen Campbell Moore shines as the self-assured, cocky and charismatic type of character that appears in most of Wilde's work. It is Tom Wilkinson who steals the show, however. Watching this (as well as a few of his other films recently) has led me to realise that he is a truly great character actor that always brings a believable and top tier performance.

Whilst all this would lead up to a decent Oscar Wilde comedy, the director seems to treat the material as if it was The Portrait of A Lady or Dangerous Liaisons; melodramatic music is used to jarring effect whilst other scenes are much too slow. Unfortunately, the three main actors seem to be following this school of thought rather the that of the actors' previously mentioned. Helen Hunt seems miscast and uninspiring, Johansen simply plays a doe-eyed innocent with little personality and zero wit and Mark Umbers is even less interesting.

These two different styles do not mesh together and whilst I haven't read Lady Windermere's Fan, the dark and morose attempt just does not seem like a great fit with Wilde (except his novel). The fact that everything feels clunky and jarring seems to support this. Wilde is not Henry James and their work cannot be adapted in the same way.

That said, the ending is quite nice and Hunt and Johansen improve as they reach the finish line. If I didn't know it was based on a play it would not be obvious. There are not long scenes set in one room and the backdrop of Italy looks nice. Moving it to the 1930s is interesting too but really does not do much (wasn't Mussolini in power in the 1930s? There's no mention of that)

Overall A Good Woman is a mess but there is a lot to like - which is probably mostly because of Wilde's brilliant writing and dialogue and even a botched Wilde reveals this talent. There is probably a much better version of Lady Windermere's Fan somewhere which if I see will probably reveal how bad this film really is but I hope Tom Wilkinson has done or will do more Wilde because he is perfect.