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The Good Wife Movie Review

cameron ward neill woman

Once upon a time, there was a type of movie called a woman's picture, AKA a four-handkerchief weeper. These films were invariably written and directed by men, the plots usually involved the heroine having to choose between security and sex, and there were always strong undercurrents of moral disapproval, even when they were charged with considerable sympathy. Today the woman's picture has been inherited by a new breed of director, no longer restrained by an obsolete production code. In 1986, Ken Cameron made The Good Wife with Rachel Ward, Bryan Brown, and Sam Neill, working from an original screenplay by Peter Kenna. If the film is remembered at all today, it is largely because of the excellent performances by the three leading players, but it is also of interest for its mid-1980s perspective on the downward spiral of sexual addiction. Ward is the title character, living in rural Australia with her husband and his younger brother. The kindest way to describe the bedside manner of the two men is erotically challenged. Their brawls with each other last far longer than their encounters with Ward's character. Although she gets nothing that could remotely be described as a kick from either brother, she remains a dutiful companion to them both until the dapper stranger played by Neill arrives on the scene. When he makes a humiliating and perfunctory pass at her, she rebuffs him instinctively, even though it is clear that she is interested in him. He starts his new job at a local bar and she returns to her familiar work routines, but with a difference. When it is clear that the stylish bartender is an unabashed philanderer, she begins to stalk him. He has moved on to fresh prey, but her obsession has become impersonal and all-encompassing; she applies lipstick, buys a new dress, and hangs out at the bar, drinking brandy after brandy just so she can stare at him and give him endless opportunities to reject her in front of the entire town. She leaves her home and moves into a room across the street so she can watch him seduce another man's wife, hoping for some signal that will make sense of her self-inflicted torture. Screenwriter Kenna has a good grasp of the psychological makeup of his characters and their eloquent self-awareness is well accompanied by Cameron Allan's persistent neurotic score. Ward and the men eventually work themselves into the sort of frenzy for which there can be no satisfactory conclusion. For most of The Good Wife's running time of 97 minutes, however, director Cameron does manage to reveal a bit of the mystery behind his title character's longing to feel something, anything, in her own lifetime, even if it's unrelieved despair from a cold-blooded stranger. AKA: The Umbrella Woman.

1986 (R) 97m/C AU Rachel Ward, Bryan Brown, Sam Neill, Steven Vidler, Bruce Barry, Jennifer Claire; D: Ken Cameron; C: James Bartle; M: Cameron Allan. VHS, LV

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