“We are all in the gutter. But some of us are looking at the stars.” Lord Darlington from Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde.
I found few lines that matched Wilde’s original play in the 2004 remake, A Good Woman. The movie was set in 1930 Italy with cinematography that delights the senses. The Mediterranean blue waves kiss the white beaches and caress the stone embankments along the Almafi coast. The slender seductive roads clinging to the mountain ridges and skirting the water’s edge twist and interlock like the scandalous affluent men and women shirking the disastrous consequences from their elegant gutters.
The characters in this movie are as ornate and colorful as the stone and stucco dwellings that cling to the steep cliffs. The wanton Mrs. Erlynne, the scheming playboy Lord Darlington, and the selfish gossips threaten the starry love of newlyweds Meg and Robert Windermere. No one believed in love and marriage but the Windermeres. Contessa Lucchino expressed her sentiment with, “Undying love is like the ghost in your villa. Everybody talks about it, but try and find one person who has seen it.”
The humorous elderly Dumby and Cecil poke fun at marriage. They try to stop Tubby from proposing to Mrs. Erlynne, “Do you think she’d look at you if you were poor?” Tubby replies, “Do you think I’d look at her if she were ugly? Fair’s fair, exchange rates and so forth.” So they try again, “You know why they call it the altar? It’s where they make human sacrifices.”
When Mrs. Erlynne described why she ran away from her marriage and daughter twenty years prior, her poetic words sucked me into her pain, “Marriage. When I think of it, I think of a room where you can’t open the window. Everyday, you wake up, and the room is smaller. You don’t notice, not at first. It happens slowly. In inches. Then one morning, you open your eyes and the room’s so small you can’t move. You can’t take a breath. You have to get out. You can’t think of anything else, or anyone else.” Tubby tried to console her, “You married the wrong man.” Mrs. Erlynne conceded, “He married the wrong woman.”
My first trip to Italy was for our 25th wedding anniversary. We toured Rome, Pisa, Florence, and Assisi. Most of the ten days were spent leisurely driving through the Tuscan countryside stopping in to savor the magic of each small village. Our children used their savings to buy us the trip. They gave all they had so we could experience our dream vacation. Their sacrificial love made Italy a special place for us. Someday I hope to return, with all my family, and give them a vacation to match the stars.
Just maybe as we stand on the beach, I can share with my loved ones the advice Mrs. Erlynne gave Meg, “A marriage takes your whole heart. Selfish people can’t pull it off, but you’re not that… Never step over your love to pick up pride and guilt.”