The Importance of Being Earnest (2002)   4/54/54/54/54/5


Colin Firth and Rupert Everett in The Importance of Being Earnest (2002)

An Ernest Udate

In the country Jack Worthing (Colin Firth) is the respectable estate owner who is in love with Gwendolen Fairfax (Frances O'Connor) and is guardian to pretty Cecily Cardew (Reese Witherspoon). But when Jack heads to the city he becomes Ernest, his fictionalized brother which allows him to act as a less than respectable cad along with his friend Algernon "Algy" Moncrieff (Rupert Everett) who gallivants around this city with gay abandon. But things get incredibly messy when Algy having got a sniff that Cecily is attractive decides to head to Jack's country estate and pretend to be brother Ernest.

When it comes to adaptations and updates of popular plays my main concern is always whether or not it leaves me entertained rather than how true it is to the original. And that is the case when it comes to this update of Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" as my only brush with Oscar Wilde's play prior to this was the 1952 version. Here is the good news, if like me you watch "The Importance of Being Earnest" to be entertained it works as the dialogue is sharp and the delivery sharper which makes it a witty delight of scheming and confusion.

Judi Dench in The Importance of Being Earnest (2002)

Now as I am no expert on Wilde I can only tell you that when compared to the 1952 version some of it has been switched around with extra scenes slotted in and I would image a couple have been dropped but it still works as it skips a long with a gleeful pace. Yes that does mean that once again we have characters which whilst enjoyable actually lack depth as does the farce of the confusion but none of that matters when so much fun dialogue is served up from saucy innuendo to cunning use of words.

But all of this is helped by perfect casting with Rupert Everett and Colin Firth working well together again, firing off each other with a mix of classic and contemporary styling which lets the dialogue be the star but aided by their delivery. It is the same with Judi Dench who is stunning as the fussy Lady Bracknell and even Reese Witherspoon works as attractive Cecily even though it feels like a piece of casting purely designed to try to appeal to an American audience.

What this all boils down to is that the 2002 version of "The Importance of Being Earnest" has the same charm and fun which made the 1952 version so much fun. Is it as good as the 1952 version I would have to say yes because it works for a contemporary audience.


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