The Importance of Being Earnest (2002)

"Excellent"

The Importance of Being Earnest (2002) Review


The Importance of Being Earnest is a sharp, humorous look at the duality of romance and the fear of commitment, served up on a delicate and witty plate in this summer season of comic book heroism and galactic space battles.

The story revolves around two dashing English gentlemen in the 1890s - John "Jack" Worthing (Colin Firth) and Algy Moncrieff (Rupert Everett) - and their trials and tribulations in the games of love and marriage under the moniker of Ernest. Jack spends his days watching over his bookish charge Cecily Cardew (Reese Witherspoon) - the granddaughter of his adopted father - at his country estate. When his restless spirit calls for adventure, he travels to London and visits his wayward city brother "Ernest." In London, Jack becomes "Ernest" and partakes in decadence with his affluent but reckless best friend Algy and ends up madly in love with Algy's sophisticated society cousin Gwendolen Fairfax (Frances O'Connor) - who has a strange love for the name of "Ernest."

Meanwhile, Algy has his own alter ego named Bunbury, a country-dwelling invalid friend who helps him avoid social engagements with his uppity social butterfly aunt, Lady Bracknell (Judi Dench), as well as the local bill collectors. During a trip to London, Jack proposes marriage to Gwendolen, which is halted by Lady Bracknell's refusal of the proposal based up Jack's inability to produce proof of his lineage: He was found abandoned as a babe in a London train station cloak room. As predictably as a Three's Company episode, all parties end up converging in the countryside in pursuit of the truth.

In the transition from stage to silver screen in this umpteenth adaptation of the Oscar Wilde play, director Oliver Parker employs elements from both the well-known three act version of The Importance of Being Earnest as well as the original four-act play Wilde penned, which better fleshes out the romance between Cecily's tutor Miss Prism (Anna Massey) and the mild-mannered local clergyman Chasuble (Tom Wilkinson). The film is adeptly directed with a strong visual sense and cinematography that captures both the lush landscapes in the countryside and the drab, gray streets and pubs of London. The film also has a wonderful selection of costuming and wardrobe selections.

The crucible of the film lies in the clever casting and outstanding acting of Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Frances O'Conner, Reese Witherspoon, Judi Dench, and Tom Wilkinson in conjunction with a script that sparkles and crackles with memorable Wilde one-liners. Despite the chaotic character developments and crisscrossing subplots in the first thirty minutes, the film finally settles into a groove, which keeps the laughs rolling at a zippy pace.

DVD special features include a spare and mumbled audio commentary from director Oliver Parker plus a making-of documentary. The movie stands very well, though, on its own.

Know what I mean, Vern?



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