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Jack Worthing (Colin Firth) is a bachelor in his mid 30s at the turn of the 19th century, with a sedate and respectable lifestyle in the country, caring for his ward, the pretty 18 year old Cecily Cardew (Reese Witherspoon). When he goes to London, it's to attend to problems caused by his wayward brother Ernest. Jack's mischievous alter ego. When Ernest meets up with the carefree and indebted Algy Moncreef (Rupert Everett), they enjoy the high life together. And when Algy needs a break (or an excuse), he visits Bunbury, his sickly friend in the country. But when, as Ernest, Jack tries to propose to the girl of his dreams, Gwendolen (Frances O'Connor), he has to pass muster by Gwen's mother, the formidable Lady Bracknell (Judi Dench). And when Algy decides to don the guise of Ernest so he can visit Jack's pretty ward Cecily, things get terribly complicated - and the story of Jack's uncertain ancestry is accidentally revealed.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Oscar Wilde's classic play is perhaps the most subtle satire ever written, the most witty dialogue and the most fragile of dramatic creations. Fragile, by the way, is the name taken by the production company, and I can only assume it was for this reason. But do not read fragile for weakness; fragile as in delicate, light, sensitive to outside elements, easily misinterpreted. For those familiar with the play (or the 50s film adaptation) the lines will resonate with crystal clarity, and every line in this script is a gem. What will matter to those of us who know the work is how it is reconceived. Any action or attitude that juts a fraction too far out will spoil it; anyone who doesn't get the intricate structure of English society a century ago will ruin it; any scene that detracts even slightly from the atmosphere will damage it. So good on you, Oliver Parker and cast, for maintaining the work that Wilde created and for giving us a new millennium's view of it. Not that it has aged: Oscar Wilde was an incredibly gifted observer of human nature, and had the ability to write about us with a deceptively amusing wit. The stage play will always remain more dramatic and screamingly amusing, but this film allows a huge audience to take part in one of Wilde's sweetest jokes. Make sure you partake.

Review by Louise Keller:
Elegance never goes out of style - and neither does Oscar Wilde! Oh the joys of the English language, when used with wit and playful bemusement. Frivolous and fanciful, The Importance of Being Earnest is a timeless comedy of errors, whose mistaken identities are brought vividly to life by a pedigree cast, enabling yet another generation to savour Wilde's wit. It's a lively piece of dizzy delights and although we have heard so many of the lines before, they are always fresh. I could happily sit through the film again tomorrow just to hear all the lines again. Lines like ' To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.' The outcome of the story is never in question, and the many joys lie in the characterisations, the intelligence, the humour and transportation to a time and place when class, position and money rule. It's a frolicsome ball of fluff that is just so darned enjoyable. I hoped it would never end. Oliver Parker's script is true to Wilde's play, Charlie Mole's music is light and mischievous and Luciana Arrighi's splendid production design satisfies our every expectation of gorgeous, decadent settings and costumes. Colin Firth is at his sublime best and together with the elegant Rupert Everett, make a delectable pair. Add the wonderful Judi Dench (plus delightful cameos from Edward Fox as the pessimistic butler, Tom Wilkinson as the bumbling clergyman whose heart is revealed in his sketchbook and Anna Massey's potty governess). Frances O'Connor and Reese Witherspoon are enchanting additions as the objects of desire. The proceedings are driven right to the edge of the ridiculous, allowing us to feel as though we have indulged in a gourmet soufflé. Light as a feather, yet concocted with the very best ingredients. It's frolicsome conjecture at its best.

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CAST: Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Frances O'Connor, Reese Witherspoon, Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Anna Massey, Edward Fox

PRODUCER: Barnaby Thompson

DIRECTOR: Oliver Parker

SCRIPT: Oliver Parker (Play by Oscar Wilde)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tony Pierce-Roberts

EDITOR: Guy Bensley

MUSIC: Charlie Mole


RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista International


VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: BVHE/xml_videodistributor>

VIDEO RELEASE: February 5, 2003

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