Projections - Movie Reviews

The Importance of Being Earnest

The Importance of Being Earnest (2002)

Oscar Wilde's stage classic The Importance of Being Earnest is artfully revamped with pompous frivolity by Oliver Parker.

Parker's An Ideal Husband star Rupert Everett returns here as Algy Moncrieff who is the best friend of Jack Worthing (Colin Firth) and is being hounded by creditors.

Here, Dame Judi Dench plays the imperious Lady Bracknell done so wonderfully in the 1952 film by Edith Evans.  She gives Jack Worthing a good going over as the suitor wants to marry her daughter, Gwendolen Fairfax, ardently acted by Frances O'Connor (AI).

Within Parker's dubious, if ambitious alterations, the women help to liven the stagy antics.  Reese Witherspoon (Legally Blond) has good moments with Gwendolen and Anna Massey's tutor Miss Prism in the maiden role of Cecily, Jack's ward.  Sporting a refined English accent, the congeniality doesn't quite jump out given the liberties taken on Wilde's comedic retorts.

The finicky narrative trims down the dialogue but plots into an earnest climax with Jack making Gwendolen happy by calling himself Ernest.  He also tells his staff of his brother named Ernest.  Meanwhile, Algy poses as Ernest for a smitten Cecily unbeknownst to Jack.

Some may find Parker's modern take amusing at times, but somewhat off-kilter.  He does stage some risible moments as Algy and Jack like a couple of Cyranos and Gwendolen receiving an Ernest tattoo.  But with Tom Wilkinson as a vulnerable clergyman named Dr. Chausuble one may start to see a break through into Wilde's heart for comedy, but this new stylish "Earnest" trades too much snappy wit for fractured effervescence.

The Importance of Being Earnest

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