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Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4
Great play, great cast, mediocre movie. Writer-director Oliver Parker's last
picture was the absolutely charming AN IDEAL HUSBAND, which was based on an
Oscar Wilde play. Trying his luck again with another Wilde comedy, THE
IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, the director shoots and just misses. It's a fine
line, but Parker makes Wilde's dry, sardonic wit just a bit too dry and too
The killer cast of this comedy of manners and fake identities includes Rupert
Everett (MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING), Colin Firth (BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY), Reese
Witherspoon (LEGALLY BLONDE), Judi Dench (SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE), Frances O'Connor
(A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE) and Tom Wilkinson (IN THE BEDROOM). All of the
actors do everything that is asked of them, including some bizarre fantasy
sequences set in Medieval Europe, which manage only to look weird.
Wilde's one-liners are terrific. "I do not approve of anything that interferes
with natural ignorance," is one of the thoughts that Lady Bracknell (Dench)
shares with Jack Worthing (Firth), a.k.a. Ernest, when he is applying for the
position of future husband of Gwendolen Fairfax (O'Connor). Since the women in
the story have taken a liking to the name Ernest, Algernon Moncrieff (Everett)
tells Cecily Cardew (Witherspoon) that Ernest is his name.
Like a slightly wet firecracker, the movie needlessly fizzles more often that it
sizzles. I can't quite recommend it, but, if you go, you'll probably enjoy at
least parts of it.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST runs 1:40. It is rated PG for "mild sensuality"
would be acceptable for all ages.
Copyright © 2002 Steve Rhodes