Importance of Being Earnest

Importance of Being Earnest

4.8 18
Director: Oliver Parker

Cast: Oliver Parker, Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Frances O'Connor


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A superb cast brings Oscar Wilde's classic comedy of manners to life in the third big-screen adaptation of this hilarious look at fun, games, and dubious ethics among the British upper crust. Algernon Moncrieff (Rupert Everett) is a slightly shady, but charming gentlemen from a wealthy family who has a bad habit of throwing his money away. Algernon has a close friend… See more details below


A superb cast brings Oscar Wilde's classic comedy of manners to life in the third big-screen adaptation of this hilarious look at fun, games, and dubious ethics among the British upper crust. Algernon Moncrieff (Rupert Everett) is a slightly shady, but charming gentlemen from a wealthy family who has a bad habit of throwing his money away. Algernon has a close friend named Jack Worthing (Colin Firth), a self-made man who acts as a ward to his cousin, a beautiful young lady named Cecily (Reese Witherspoon). Algernon has created an alter ego to help him get out of tight spots brought on by his financial improprieties, and when he learns that Jack has created a false identity of his own -- Earnest, a brother living in London whose exploits have earned him no small amount of notoriety -- Algernon arrives for a weekend visit in the country posing as the mysterious Earnest. Having heard of Earnest's misadventures many times over the years, Cecily had developed something of an infatuation with the lovable rogue, and Algernon's impersonation of him works no small degree of magic on Cecily. Meanwhile, Algernon's cousin, Gwendolyn (Frances O'Connor), arrives for the weekend, and is startled to discover Jack is also there -- except that she knows him as bad-boy Earnest. So just who is in love with who? How will Lady Bracknell (Judi Dench) handle the matter of her daughter Gwendolyn's suitors? And what's the truth about Jack's mysterious heritage? The Importance of Being Earnest was director Oliver Parker's second film adaptation of an Oscar Wilde comedy; he previously helmed An Ideal Husband, which also starred Rupert Everett. Everett and Colin Firth also co-starred in the 1984 drama Another Country.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
Oscar Wilde's hilarious Victorian-era play gets deluxe treatment in this delightfully saucy screen adaptation written and directed by Oliver Parker (An Ideal Husband). It's a mistaken-identity farce nonpareil, deliciously naughty in its implications and shrewdly observant with respect to British manners, mores, and class distinctions. The plot is airy and, to a degree, irrelevant. The dialogue, however, is something else -- witty, in some cases caustic, but uniquely memorable. To some viewers Importance will seem vaguely familiar, but only because Wilde's original has inspired countless imitations since its 1895 theatrical debut. The story goes something like this: Dashing gentleman Jack Worthing (played by Colin Firth) goes by his real name in the countryside but is known in the city as "Ernest" -- a convenient identity adopted to facilitate extrication from failed romances. The idea makes perfect sense to his friend Algernon Moncrieff (Rupert Everett), who takes the name for himself while visiting the country. As Ernest, he falls into love with and proposes to Jack's young ward, Cecily Cardew (Reese Witherspoon), right around the time Jack's alter ego becomes engaged to Gwendolen Fairfax (Frances O'Connor), daughter of the formidable -- and suspicious -- Lady Bracknell (Judi Dench). You can imagine the confusion that ensues when the two young ladies start talking about their suitors. Importance is nothing if not perfectly cast: Everett plays Algernon with the insouciance that has become his trademark, Firth plays second fiddle most engagingly (as always), and the surprisingly effective American-born Witherspoon delivers her lines with a convincing British accent. Dench shines as the class-conscious dowager, and Edward Fox has a scene-stealing turn as a wry butler. Sumptuously appointed, incisively directed, and breezily acted, The Importance of Being Earnest is strongly recommended for those who appreciate sophisticated comedy -- which, sadly, is otherwise so rare in today's movies. The DVD features a commentary by Parker and a behind-the-scenes featurette.
All Movie Guide
The weightlessness of The Importance of Being Earnest makes it clear why Miramax released this trifle as counterprogramming to Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones rather than during its traditional Oscar season. A mistaken-identity farce to rival Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde's play has always been considered a classic comedy of manners/errors. But Oliver Parker's film suffers a bit by following the recent deluge of British period comedies, among them The Ideal Husband (also starring Rupert Everett and directed by Parker) and Emma. Everyone is having a jolly good time, and the production is as handsome as one could want, but there's no fresh sense of rediscovery, which might have accompanied the film had it come out a couple years earlier. It's so trivial that there's also no sense of peril about the fragile relations falling short of a happy conclusion, nor the whole enterprise unraveling under the stern displeasure of Judi Dench's imperious Lady Bracknell. Fortunately, no one's really expecting a near tragedy, especially with that giddy soundtrack and the ready grins of all the performers. While most of the cast is accustomed to this milieu, Reese Witherspoon acquits herself surprisingly well in the new form, her natural bird-like prissiness used to good effect and her accent passable. Overall, Parker has an exquisitely literate, humorous, and watchable film on his hands, and the fact that it doesn't stick long after leaving the theater is kind of irrelevant.
Chicago Sun-Times - Roger Ebert
The Importance of Being Earnest, so thick with wit it plays like a reading from Bartlett's Familiar Quotations.
Boston Globe
Sharp performances and a literate script that never has to resort to cheap humor to be sidesplittingly funny.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Miramax Lionsgate
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
[Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Closed Caption; ; Audio Commentary With Director Oliver Parker; The Making Of The Importance Of Being Earnest; Behind-The-Scenes Featurette

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Rupert Everett Algy
Colin Firth Jack
Frances O'Connor Gwendolyn Fairfax
Reese Witherspoon Cecily Cardew
Judi Dench Lady Bracknell
Edward Fox Lane
Charles Kay Gribsby
Anna Massey Miss Prism
Tom Wilkinson Dr. Chasuble

Technical Credits
Oliver Parker Director,Screenwriter
Oscar Wilde Author
Paul Ghiradani Art Director
Richard Hewitt Asst. Director
Celestia Fox Casting
Quinney Sachs Choreography
Tony Pierce-Roberts Cinematographer
David Brown Co-producer
Maurizio Millenotti Costumes/Costume Designer
Guy Bensley Editor
Uri Fruchtman Executive Producer
Peter King Makeup
Barnaby Thompson Producer
Luciana Arrighi Production Designer
Charlie Mole Score Composer
Ian Whittaker Set Decoration/Design
John Midgley Sound/Sound Designer

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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Importance of Being Earnest
1. Opening Credits: Uncertainty [4:17]
2. Engaging Names [4:17]
3. Mixed Metaphors [4:19]
4. A Regrettable Inquisition [10:01]
5. To The Country [2:58]
6. Deceiving Death [6:44]
7. Conflicts With Ernest [6:48]
8. Romantic Intentions [7:32]
9. Disputing Claims [6:56]
10. Self-Sacrifice [6:30]
11. Bargaining For Brides [8:12]
12. Brothers After All [4:50]
13. End Credits [:26]

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