The Importance of Being Earnest
2 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
everybody loves earnest, but who is he After the masterful An Ideal Husband, Parker returns to Oscar Wilde for this next project, another witty comedy with a fantastic British cast. So why is the film so uneven? Algy and Jack (Everett and Firth) are lifelong friends and wayward bachelors in Victorian England. Jack has invented a brother named Earnest to give him an excuse to escape from his country house to London, where he can woo the lovely Gwendolyn (O'Connor), even though her mother (Dench) is not thrilled about the idea. Then Algy hatches a scheme to pose as Earnest so he can meet Jack's lovely young ward Cecily (Witherspoon), and a chain of events unravels to question just about everyone's true identity.

First the good things: Wilde's dialog and insight are fantastic--intelligent and witty, sharp and skewering, with characters that act on hidden motives and utter timeless quotes left and right. And as the story gets more and more chaotic, the strands come together wonderfully. Strangely, Parker doesn't seem sure about how to play it. Instead of the biting dark comedy of An Ideal Husband, he goes for a more silly rom-com feel here, which undermines just about everything. The romances aren't believable, the comedy isn't funny (only the Wilde wit is) and the cast never seem to know what to do with themselves, veering between camp farce and sophisticated humour. Firth is the only one with any consistency; Witherspoon is the only one who's actually funny; Massey and Wilkinson are hopelessly miscast together. It's all so stilted that it's almost painful to watch at times. With this cast, this filmmaker and this source material, we aggressively want to like it. But we can't.

cert U themes 19.Aug.02

dir-scr Oliver Parker
with Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Reese Witherspoon, Frances O'Connor, Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Anna Massey, Edward Fox Patrick Godfry, Charles Kay, Marsha Fitzalan, Finty Williams
release US 17.May.02; UK 30.Aug.02
02/UK 1h37

It must be love. The central couples get their hopes up for a happily ever after ending (O'Connor, Firth, Everett, Witherspoon).

hanks hanks hanks hanks
R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... everybody loves earnest, but who is he "I thought the film was brilliant, and after seeing an older version I came to the conclusion that this version outdoes the first one by miles. It is much wittier, quicker and better acting all round. All though I may only be saying this because I am a person of the modern era. I really thought that the first one was better for other reasons. Although after watching many olden films I have to say it stands out as a good film from and the acting is goo,d though it is improved in every area in this version." --Lauren, net 28.Jun.03
2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall