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The Importance Of Being Earnest (PG)
Miramax Films
Official Site
Director: Oliver Parker
Producer: Barnaby Thompson
Written by: Oliver Parker
Cast: Colin Firth, Rupert Everett, Reese Witherspoon, Judi Dench, Frances O’Connor, Tom Wilkinson

Rating: out of 5


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 (Witherspoon).

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.

—Jennifer Prestigiacomo

 

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

It’s worth a full-price ticket.

It’s worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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