THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST Image

Literary purists have been quick to bash Oliver Parker’s second adaptation of a beloved (in this case, the most beloved) Oscar Wilde play for the various liberties and flights of fancy he has taken with the material: excursions in hot air balloons, tattooed backsides, foot chases, and innocent bondage fantasies. They may have a point, but such embellishments are rather beside it, for Parker and his gifted cast have so wonderfully preserved the frivolous and fun spirit of the parent text. Colin Firth and Rupert Everett make a crack comic team as the two men not named Ernest who lay claim to the name in order to woo two different women: in Firth’s case, Everett’s comely cousin, played by Frances O’Connor; in Everett’s, Firth’s perky young ward, played by Reese Witherspoon. As identities are swapped and mistaken, all manner of frothy farce ensues, and with Judi Dench adding spice to the mix with her deliciously acid-tongued barbs as O’Connor’s imperious mother the recipe is complete for a rollicking romp.

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