Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
Spain/Italy/United Kingdom/Luxembourg/USA, 2004. Beyond Films, Magic Hour Media, Thema Production, Meltemi Entertainment, Lighthouse Entertainment, A Good Woman UK, Buskin Film, Kanzaman, Matrix Film Finance. Screenplay by Howard Himelstein, based on the play Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde. Cinematography by Ben Seresin. Produced by Jonathan English, Alan Greenspan, Howard Himelstein, Steven Siebert. Music by Richard G. Mitchell. Production Design by Ben Scott. Costume Design by John Bloomfield. Film Editing by Neil Farrell.
Underwhelming but passable adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s superb play Lady Windermere’s Fan, with Scarlett Johansson is awkwardly cast as the naïve, breathless heroine (now an American financier’s wife instead of a British aristocrat) who gets wind that her husband (Mark Umbers) is having an affair with an older, scandalous woman (Helen Hunt) during their vacation in Venice. Hunt, meanwhile, has sights on a much richer, more available gentleman (Tom Wilkinson) who wants her as badly for her beauty as she wants him for his money. The secrets that are revealed within the pealing wit of Wilde’s brilliant dialogue (“Women and sausages: if you want to enjoy them, don’t watch the preparation of either”) begs to challenge perceived morality when compared with genuine humanity: what makes one woman good and another sinful?
The ridiculously unfaithful adaptation, which moves the setting to the 1930s and adds more plot-thickening devices than are necessary (because why mess with perfection?) somewhat disperses the effect of Wilde’s writing (“Gossip’s all right. It’s the moralizing that’s in poor taste”), but the emotional impact of the climax is left intact. Johansson is too obviously intelligent for her role, but Hunt does a magnificent job in the lead, and the production values are splendid. Best to stick with the BBC adaptation made in 1985 and starring Tim Woodward and Stephanie Turner.
Toronto International Film Festival: 2004