Some higher power decided to inflict the human race with the ineffable and inextinguishable desire for sex. So it goes. In addition, it is the root of all comedy, as Oscar Wilde clearly points out in his play, Lady Windemere's Fan, about a bunch of fops who reflect on the nature of love and its inherent absurdity while on holiday on Italian riviera. Sound familiar? Probably, but most sorority girls refer to the holiday as a semester of college and engage in much less eloquent analyses of the human condition.

In this adaptation to the screen entitled A Good Woman, director Mike Barker and writer Howard Himelstein ultimately fail to transpose Wilde's verbal somersaults into cinematic elegance. Early on in the film, a divide is established between the center of action and the peripheral vantage point, emphasizing the unique qualities of the film medium. The story is revealed through the perception of the onlookers, a group of three men and three women whose propensity for gossip misconstrues what looks like an affair between a happily married Mr. Windemere (Mark Umbers) and a notorious coquette, Mrs. Erlynne (Helen Hunt). Meanwhile, Lord Darlington (Stephen Campbell Moore), the indelible wit, most likely an incarnation of Wilde himself, halfheartedly woos Windemere's wife Meg, played by the succulent lips of Scarlett Johansson.

While epigrams whiz by like high-flying arrows in the beginning of an ancient war between the sexes, the character development is abrupt and forced. A reversal of roles occurs that would have benefited from some visual foreshadowing or even furnishing the dialogue with more narrative texture. Instead, the film is driven by airy witticism, which does often capture the wider themes of the balance between carnal drives and marriage, and innocence and experience. But an exceedingly thin veil of wily wordplay leaves the characters naked within a static dramatic arc.