Plot: What’s it about?
Algernon Moncrieff (Rupert Everett), better known to his friends as Algy, lives in the city and loves to have a good time. He is friends with a man named Jack Worthing (Colin Firth), who also happens to up for some fun whenever possible. Jack lives in a more rural landscape, but often comes to the city to visit his friend Algy and when he does, he comes not as Jack, but as Ernest. Yes, he uses a different name when he happens to be in town, so Algy complies and when they’re out on the town, they’re known as Algy and Ernest. By the same token, when he is ready to venture into the urban area to pay a visit to Algy, he tells everyone he is going to his brother Ernest, who is always in need of his assistance. So not only does he have a new persona for his city visits, but he makes himself look like a saint by taking care of his brother Ernest, even if it meets going into the city to tend his sibling. So at times, Algy is called upon to be Ernest and that suits him well, as he can let loose under another guise, which can have its rewards. But when romance comes calling and the two friends find themselves in a complicated case of mistaken identities, will the real story about Ernest come forward, or will the whole situation simply fall apart?
The basis for this movie has been covered countless times already, so could this latest take on Oscar Wilde’s play stand as one of the better adaptations? I had some doubts, but this turns out to be a well crafted, well told edition of Wilde’s classic work, one which should please most audiences who take it in. As this is a period piece, it needed excellent production values and man, does it ever and then some. The costumes are gorgeous and really match the characters well, while the sets look lush and well detailed. I was quite stunned to hear this was made for only fifteen million, as it looks much more expensive than that, without a doubt. So if you’re a lover of period piece visuals, then The Importance of Being Earnest is one you simply must see, but don’t be fooled, this movie isn’t all smoke & mirrors. Once you’ve marveled at all the beautiful visuals, you’ll notice how well written and superbly performed the material is, thanks to a terrific screenplay and a loaded, very gifted cast of characters. Reese Witherspoon heads an impressive assortment of players, all of whom seem to be in fine form and comfortable within the material. This one has a great blend of humor and romance, sure to make a solid date movie, as even the guys should be entertained. This disc from Buena Vista has great audio & video merits, as well as a passable selection of bonus materials, so don’t hesitate to pick up The Importance of Being Earnest.
This movie has an impressive cast, but I think the finest effort comes from Reese Witherspoon, who shines in her role here. She has such a wide-eyed, innocent persona, she is a natural for her part and really makes a run of it. Witherspoon even manages to have a solid English accent here, which is a stumbling block for a lot of American performers, but she does well and proves her range is substantial. I know its hard not to just sit back and soak in Witherspoon’s youthful beauty, but if you pay close attention to her performance, you will see many nuances that bring out the character’s personality, a simply terrific effort. I’m not sure how well Witherspoon would handle intense dramatic parts, but when she is allowed to use her cuteness and comedic skills, she is a blast to watch and that’s the case here. Other films with Witherspoon include Legally Blonde, American Psycho, Cruel Intentions, Best Laid Plans, and Pleasantville. The cast also includes Rupert Everett (An Ideal Husband, B. Monkey), Colin Firth (Shakespeare in Love, Bridget Jones’s Diary), and Frances O’Connor (Windtalkers, Bedazzled).
Video: How does it look?
The Importance of Being Earnest is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This is a terrific looking effort in all respects, with a few minor flaws to be seen, but nothing to be worried over. The film’s visual scheme changes at times, but no matter what the demands of the material, this treatment keeps pace at all times. The colors are bold and vivid when need be, as well as more reserved and natural, should the scene call for such, while flesh tones are warm and consistent throughout. I didn’t note any troubles with contrast either, as black levels remain well balanced and detail is high all through the picture. Not quite a flawless presentation, but a great one and fans should be very pleased.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included Dolby Digital 5.1 option sounds excellent, though for this kind of material, that doesn’t mean intense and creative surround presence. No, as you can imagine, this is a picture driven by almost constant dialogue and as such, the audio needs to focus on the vocals, to ensure all the dialogue is as clean as a whistle. That’s what you’ll find here, with crisp and smooth vocals from start to finish, with no volume issues to mention. All the lines are easy to hear and understand, with no distortion in the slightest. I found the musical score to be enjoyable and it sounds great in this mix, while sound effects are solid and well presented also. This disc also includes a French language option, as well as English subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
A pair of behind the scenes featurettes start us off, but both stack up just over twenty minutes, so don’t expect much. The usual promotional fluff style interviews and some clips from the movie itself, that’s about all that’s in these two pieces. The main extra is an audio commentary track with director Oliver Parker, but it by no means an excellent inclusion in its own right. Parker is a slow, detailed speaker, focusing more on very small touches and little else, so we don’t learn a lot about the production. You’ll hear some names and what purpose they served, but it is so slow and drawn out, its bound to lose most listeners.