Main cast: Rupert Everett (Algernon Moncrieff), Colin Firth (John “Jack” Worthing), Frances O’Connor (Gwendolen Fairfax), Reese Witherspoon (Cecily Cardew), Judi Dench (Lady Bracknell), Tom Wilkinson (Dr Chasuble), Anna Massey (Miss Prism), Edward Fox (Lane), and Patrick Godfrey (Merriman)
Director: Oliver Parker
One thing I can say about this unnecessary The Importance of Being Earnest – half the cast could have sleepwalked through their roles or phoned in their lines from their penthouse at three in the morning, and this movie will still proceed as usual. Rupert Everett as a dashing, roguish Oscar Wilde-ish chap? You don’t say! Judi Dench as a brittle but witty aristocratic marm? Wow! Colin Firth as a constipated romantic leading man? Bugger me! Frances O’Connor playing a lovelorn lass? Who would’ve thought?
Hmmm, cutting and reediting the footages of An Ideal Husband, any Judi Dench movie from Miramax in the last few years, Mansfield Park, and Pride and Prejudice would probably still result in a movie that won’t be much different from this one.
This story is a farce that gets more outlandish as it progresses. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, really. Algernon and Jack are two men with different dispositions, Algy being dashing while Jack is more on the proper side, and in a comedy of errors thing, both end up falling for women who believe that their name is Ernest, and yes, these women better don’t find out that their men’s names aren’t Ernest or there will be hell to pay.
Watching a movie where two-thirds of the main cast seem to be reprising a watered-down version of their recent roles handicaps The Importance of Being Earnest from the get go. If there’s anyone who should have used this movie to prove her mettle, it’s Reese Witherspoon, but whenever she comes close to completing a sentence, the movie cuts into some annoying dream sequence that never lets Ms Witherspoon come off as anything but bratty. Frances O’Connor fares the worst, speaking her lines in wide-eyed breathless melodrama that I fear she will collapse and asphyxiate herself before the movie is over.
And what’s with the tinkering with the original play that reduces both women into nothing more than silly name-fixated ninnies?
There is really nothing wrong with this movie, if one hasn’t seen period pieces by Mr Everett, Ms Dench, Ms O’Connor, Mr Wilkinson, Mr Firth, and company before. This small storm in a teacup will be okay for some Colin Firth ogling when there’s nothing better to do, but I don’t know. That man looks a little like a constipated bulldog to me. He must be a Jane Austen thing, and heaven knows, I’m not a Jane Austen person, not even on good days.