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By Ron Wells | June 14, 1999

WARNING FOR: Chick film, Period Romantic Comedy, Based on a Play, Severe Drollness, English
Rupert Everett goes buck wild (okay, Oscar Wilde) in this Victorian comedy of manners and romance. Starrring as Lord Arthur Goring, Everett is quite happy as an idle rich bachelor and womanizer. Two actions are about to complicate his life. First, his father, the Earl of Caversham (John Wood) and a member of Parliament, insists that Arthur, now 36, get married and stop wasting his life. The second problem occurs when Arthur’s best friend, Sir Robert Chiltern (Jeremy Northam), a much respected member of the House of Commons and an “ideal husband” to Lady Gertrude (Cate Blanchett), is blackmailed by the divorcee, Laura Cheveley (Julianne Moore), over the source of his wealth. He must publicly support a questionable canal deal or she will reveal evidence that could destroy his marriage and his career.
All the intrigue reflects back on Arthur’s cherished bachelorhood, as he was once engaged to Laura, was once in love with Gertrude, and is soon smitten by Sir Robert’s sister, Mabel (Minnie Driver). Hilarity ensues.
The film is not without its problems, some inherent to Wilde’s original play. The relationship between Arthur and Mabel is not given the time it needs to develop and Robert’s backbone is reinforced by the board shoved up his a*s, a board he should be smacked with when he becomes unbelievably judgmental toward Arthur. All the storylines wrap up very neatly, though, and the whole shebang goes down smoothly due to the stunningly likeable Everett. Rupert’s understated delivery and massive charm propels the film along and provide the right stand-in for Wilde himself, who’s also portrayed when most of the characters attend one of his other plays. It’s easy to see why all the women love him; the audience can’t help but to wish the big fop the best, as well.
This may not quite be the sort of film for everyone, but if you’re on a date, and the alternative is either of the two Julia Roberts films due out (“Notting Hill”, “The Runaway Bride”), you could do much worse than this.

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