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The Umbrella Woman

Umbrella Woman, The (Ken Cameron, 1987) aka The Good Wife, aka Peter Kenna's The Good Wife; dp James Bartle; Rachel Ward, Steven Vidler, Bryan Brown (Sonny Hills), Sam Neill

Watching The Umbrella Woman (Ken Cameron, 1986) took all afternoon, what with interruptions of different kinds, but I kept persevering – because it's such a good film. It's known as The Good Wife in the States: both titles are poor imo (the first can be blamed on the writer, Peter Kenna) but they are the only bad thing about this. I watched it with the commentary on. In this case it was not the director or whatever but the two male leads, Bryan Brown and Sam Neill, which was a different kind of experience. Especially as the female lead is Bryan's wife then and now, Rachel Ward, and BB had to watch her 'having sex' first with himself and then with Steven Vidler. Fortunately both Bryan and Sam were quite discreet in the kinds of remarks they made – or refrained from making. Sam did gallantly say: 'Rachel Ward is still the most beautiful woman in Australia'.

"... rigorously traces the social conditions that constrain, stultify and pervert a woman's sexual and romantic drives ..." Adrian Martin, in Murray 1995: 225.

... the script had problems that were never fully resolved ... Cameron feels the casting of Brown thwarted the script's intentions ... Cameron hoped he would overcome the script's problems during shooting, but learnt that 'you can't escape fundamental problems' ... [and also] the film ... is just too beautiful, too conscious of the perfection of every image. Stratton: 159-160.

With its soap opera-friendly plot, The Umbrella Woman may have been more successful had director Ken Cameron taken a less earnest approach, giving in to the material's melodramatic elements and spurring on the sense of outback townsfolk behaving madly. Without a sense of humour, and without a genuine dramatic device to explain Marge's short lived but damaging obsession, the screenplay seems stilted and the film drags. Andrew L. Urban, urban cinefile.

Garry Gillard | New: 12 October, 2012 | Now: 28 February, 2021