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The Importance of Being Earnest
2002 - PG-13 - 100 Mins.
Director: Oliver Parker
Producer: Barnaby Thompson, Uri Fruchtmann
Written By: Oliver Parker
Starring: Colin Firth, Rupert Everett, Reese Witherspoon, Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Frances O'Connor, Anna Massey, Edward Fox
Review by: Joe Rickey

Why, you have a big hat, sir.
The Importance of Being Earnest is one modern adaptation that takes many liberties with its source work and therefore might not please purists. This new adaptation is certainly more visually appealing that forgoes its play roots. The classic dialog retains its wittiness in this 2002 adaptation and the acting is generally good enough that this update is a fairly entertaining film.
Algernon Moncrieff (Rupert Everett) and John Worthing (Colin Firth) are two friends in 1890’s England that are also eligible bachelors. The two friends also happen to be quite inventive individuals that have created alternate fictional personas for their own personal handiness. For example, Algernon would say that he has to tend to his fictious friend Bunbury’s ailing health if it was an event he doesn’t want to attend. The two friends then find their lying ways get them in trouble when they fall in love with two women and Algernon butts in on John’s budding relationship with Cecily Cardew (Reese Witherspoon), a young ward that John’s supposed to be caring for. John then falls in love with Algernon’s cousin (Frances O’ Connor), which greatly displeases Algernon because she’s his cousin. John wants to propose to her but Algernon’s great aunt (Judi Dench) will not allow is because John has no heritage. The rest of the film details how the two men deal with their collective mess they have found themselves in because of their lying ways.

The Importance of Being Earnest is directed and written by Oliver Parker based on the famous Oscar Wilde play. Parker previously adapted Wilde’s play An Ideal Husband back in 1999. His direction attempts to add some more liveliness to the proceedings by making the film appear less like it really is an adaptation of a play. He does this by changing the locales of some of the events to the outdoors, etc. He succeeds in making the film seem less like a stage production and the film more stimulating to the senses. Parker also wisely keeps the dialog style of Wilde and the film is better for it. What Parker doesn’t succeed in doing though is making the film continually enjoyable throughout its running time. As the plot continues to develop the viewers find themselves getting restless as they wait for the movie to come to its conclusion.

The performances are okay for the most part. Rupert Everett successfully wrings all the laughs he can out of his character’s strange situation. Firth isn’t as successful because his character isn’t as developed or layered as his costar. Reese Witherspoon surprisingly pulls of her character’s English accent with aplomb and she does very well overall. Judi Dench is the weakest link because she overacts in her role as the snooty aunt. She attempts to chew the screen with her grating performance but it doesn’t work.

Overall, The Importance of Being Earnest is entertaining enough as an adaptation but not really worth seeing unless you know going in that its an stage to screen adaptation and doesn’t stray far from its roots.

Movie Guru Rating
Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable.
  2.5 out of 5 stars

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