A Good Woman is a problematic review for a writer of my ilk. The issue is I usually dedicate *zero* time to plot information because I always want the viewer to see it with fresh eyes, ideally not knowing what’s coming next. A huge pet peeve of mine is when everything plays out exactly as you’d think in a film. These are the films I save savage reviews for because my view is this; when in your life has something played out precisely how you’d imagined it in your evil mountain lair? Never? Me too. The best analogy I can come up with for how life works is whenever I ask someone what time it is they answer, “No pork for me, thanks.” Life is full of curveballs. The best movies don’t conform to expectations.
Now, back to A Good Woman which has thrown me for a real loop. The film starts out with Helen Hunt as a professional mistress in the 1930’s, she’s adept at borrowing (not stealing) husbands for her own short term financial gain. She’s just looking for a free meal, a free house, whatever in exchange for the fling on the side for the hubby. She crosses the wrong wives in the big apple and is forced to journey to Italy to find fresh meat. The meat is Scarlett Johansson (called S-Jo from here on out) and her filthy rich husband. This is all presented in the first few minutes of the film so I’m not ruining the experience just yet. That’s the set-up, Helen Hunt on the prowl for S-Jo’s husband. Got it? Good.
This leads us to the first issue with A Good Woman. From the outset Ms. Hunt seems Woefully miscast as a mistress style gal. To me she didn’t really seem sexy enough, young enough, cruel enough… basically about 60 seconds in I started getting those warning bells in my head that said “whaaaa?” Things continued going poorly right up until minute 45 when I looked at the exit sign and my phone to see what time it was. If the goal is immersion and I’m counting the seconds the film is usually doomed. But then it happened. What is it? Well, sadly I can’t say. I’m sorry. Truly, I am. I hope you see the film and we can talk about it afterwards. I’m going to put something in inviso-script toward the end of this review and you can highlight it if you are one of those crazies who like spoilers. For everyone else I’m just saying I recommend the film, and to be patient with it.
Now, as for specific criticism I really liked S-Jo in this role. In my mind she plays fragile better than strong, sad better than happy. I don’t know why this is but somehow to me a broken Scarlett is much more appealing than a happy, resilient one. She’s great in this film which was really refreshing after overwrought insipid pieces such as The Island and Match Point. Scarlett is all pleasing angles in A Good Woman, Italian sun dresses suit her beautifully. The film also shows off Italy to perfection and the privileged life of the very rich during the depression. One of the scamps comments on America, “I love America… they went from barbarism to decadence without bothering to create a culture.” Witty dialogue is all around and the film ends on a magnificent note.
That’s all I have for you today. I’m giving the film a B+ for making one of the best comeback’s I’ve ever seen a film make. To go from boring to intriguing is a very rare treat indeed. If you’re still not convinced read the bottom and sell your soul. Either way this one is worth catching.
You know what, I’m still not telling you specifics. Let’s just say it’s a twist. A twist-a-roo. Twist and shout! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Hey you… this movie book has a golden pig on it. Beat that.