Oscar Wilde’s charming and beloved play The Importance
Of Being Earnest has been translated to the screen as
so many other venerable plays have. Unfortunately, those who
have seen and/or read the original have a disadvantage—the
knowledge that Wilde’s work was brilliantly humorous and witty.
The film is set in 1890s England. Jack Worthing (Firth)
and Algernon Moncrieff (Everett) are friends who have
deceptive tendencies of assuming other identities to pursue
their romantic relationships. Jack lives in the country and
calls on an imaginary brother Earnest in the city in order
to see his lady friend Gwendolen (O’Connor). Jack’s
wily friend Algernon threatens his secret identity when he
discovers that Jack cares for a young, pretty ward, Cecily
The pacing of the play is impeccable and flows like a pinball
machine with each piece of dialogue bouncing off the other
in a fast-paced zigzag. The movie’s pacing is much slower,
and the film’s ability to change scenery constantly breaks
the tension that a stationary stage provides.
Colin Firth is a tremendous actor whose turn as Jack didn’t
measure up to his quality of prior acting. His portrayal of
Charles Darcy in A&E’s Pride and Prejudice mini-series
was captivating and alone a career-maker. In Earnest,
Firth lacked the true beguiling humor of Earnest character
in the play, and he seemed to be holding back and not truly
becoming the character.
I usually judge film adaptations first by comparison to the
original work and then by their own merit. The original play
was far superior for the aforementioned reasons. On its own
merit, the film is witty and tells and entertaining story,
but so did the play. The film adds nothing to the original
story except a cast of wonderfully talented screen actors
and some cheesy fantasy sequences.
For you Wilde aficionados, do not rush to see this film.
But for those unfamiliar with the play, The Importance
Of Being Earnest is worth a go.