A Good Woman (2004)

2010 #121
Mike Barker | 89 mins | TV | PG / PG

A Good Woman adapts Oscar Wilde’s 1892 play Lady Windermere’s Fan, switching the setting to the Amalfi Coast in 1930. If one didn’t know better, one would believe that’s when and where it was always set.

And if one does know better, apparently one should hate it. Most reviews, which are largely negative, focus on it being a poor conversion of the play. I’ve never seen nor read the original and thought it slotted seamlessly into its new ’30s setting (even though I am of course aware that Wilde was not writing (or doing much else) by the 1930s).

It remains a very funny piece — well, I presume “remains” rather than “becomes”, because it seems this is purely thanks to Wilde’s outstanding wit rather than any particular skill in adaptation or acting. While I have nothing against either, it’s the witticisms — or one-liners, if you prefer — that give the film most of its quality.

Another point reviewers like to pounce on is the US cast members. Scarlett Johansson is neither here nor there, as per usual, but I thought Helen Hunt was quite good. It’s undoubtable that they’re overshadowed by British thesps like Tom Wilkinson and Stephen Campbell Moore however, but that’s just par for the course.

Lady Windermere's FanSo it seems one’s perception of the film lies in what it is compared to. Compared to Wilde’s original, it may indeed be a pale imitation, relocated to an inappropriate country and period, with lacklustre performances and incongruous Wilde-penned lines crowbarred in. Taken without the context of the work it’s adapted from, however, I thought it was a flawed but, more importantly, highly amusing film.

4 out of 5

Wilde (1997)

2007 #90
Brian Gilbert | 112 mins | TV | 15 / R

WildeStephen Fry leads a starry British ensemble in this biopic of poet, novelist, playwright and genius Oscar Wilde. The film focuses not on Wilde’s literary achievements and public life, but on his private relationships with various men, and in particular his obsession with the young Lord ‘Bosie’; of course, eventually, all of these things collide.

Fry is perfectly cast as Wilde and Jude Law is suitably horrid as the spoilt, stroppy and thoroughly dislikeable Bosie, whose selfishness brings about Wilde’s downfall. Also worthy of note is the ever-excellent Michael Sheen in a smaller but vital role; he’s a criminally under-acknowledged actor.

4 out of 5