Customer Reviews


74 Reviews
5 star:
 (50)
4 star:
 (15)
3 star:
 (6)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:
 (2)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


171 of 178 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Criterion version is the best version by far.......
Two film versions of Oscar Wilde's IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST are now available on DVD. If you know nothing of the play or subsequent movie versions of the play, you might wonder, which is best? Which should I buy? Should I buy both of them?
The version of EARNEST released in 1952 and listed here stars Michael Redgrave as Worthing (father of Lynn, Vanessa, and...
Published on November 16, 2002 by Dianne Foster

versus
39 of 49 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Misleading reviews
The customer reviews for this tape are misleading. They are written about not about the tape being offered for sale, a 1988 BBC production of The Importance of Being Earnest. Instead, they refer to the 1952 film production, with Michael Redgrave and Dame Edith Evans. This is extremely misleading: after reading the reviews, I ordered the tape thinking I would be getting...
Published on June 28, 2002 by Peter A. Fish


‹ Previous | 1 28 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

171 of 178 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Criterion version is the best version by far......., November 16, 2002
This review is from: The Importance of Being Earnest (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
Two film versions of Oscar Wilde's IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST are now available on DVD. If you know nothing of the play or subsequent movie versions of the play, you might wonder, which is best? Which should I buy? Should I buy both of them?
The version of EARNEST released in 1952 and listed here stars Michael Redgrave as Worthing (father of Lynn, Vanessa, and Colin Redgrave; grandfather of Miranda and Natasha Richardson, etc.), Dame Edith Evans as Aunt Augusta, Joan Greenwood as Gwendolyn, Margaret Rutherford as the woeful governess, and several other fine stage actors of 1950s England.
The 1952 version is 95 minutes long and presented as a stage play with a few outdoors settings. If you want to see the play as Wilde probably meant it to be seen, this version is the one to buy. The dialogue is snappy and smart, the humor dry and witty, the actors are filled with zest. Not only that, but the 1952 version is a Criterion DVD with `digital transfer' and historical notes.
The second version of EARNEST, released in theaters a year or two ago, stars Colin Firth as Worthing, Rupert Everett as Algeron, Frances O'Conner as Gwendolyn, Dame Judi Dench as Aunt Augusta, Anna Massey in the Margaret Rutherford role, Reese Witherspoon as Cecily, and Edward Fox as Algeron's underpaid manservant. If Wilde knows about this version, he is probably spinning in his grave in Pere Lachaise.
The dialogue (Wilde wrote) is virtually the same in both films, and the actors for the most part are great actors, but something has gone missing from the newer release. I love Colin Firth, but he is dismal as Worthing. I am ambivalent about Everett but he is the best thing in the newer film. Anna Massey is fine, I loved her as George Sand's mother in IMPROMPTU, but after seeing Margaret Rutherford play the role of the wayward nanny-turned-tutor in the Criterion version--forget it.
The second EARNEST (newer version) plays like an old record on warped speed. The witty dialogue moves so slowly, the repartee is as flat as fallen souffle. On top of that, what is a knight in armor doing in this play? Did the screen play call for this bit of nonsense? Or did the director decide to borrow elements from a few other films! For example, in several scenes, Firth (Worthing) gives an almost repeat performance of scenes from PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. I could forgive the ripoff of P&P in BRIDGET JONES because that film is a satire on P&P, but in EARNEST it simply doesn't work.
The action in the newer version is V-E-R-Y S-L-O-W compared with the Criterion version. Did the director slow the action because he thought "monolingual" Americans would understand the words better?? How stupid, GOSFORD PARK did just fine. Those of us who patronize British films and the BBC understand British accents --
and many of us can identify accents by class and locale. Gee whiz, if you can follow the dialogue in East Enders you can follow anything.
If you're a drama student and can afford both versions, buy both versions. In this case actions do speak louder than words and you can discover for yourself that great script and actors aren't the only ingredients in a good film-the director matters.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


76 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive cinematic production, February 20, 2001
Oscar Wilde's celebrated masterpiece is a comedy on three levels. First there is the denotative level, one might say, the level in which the bourgeois are entertained après dîner. It is on this level that Oscar Wilde follows the great theatrical tradition of comedy from the time of the Greeks through Shakespeare and French farce into the twentieth century to the musical comedy of the London and New York stage. His play on this level is a comedy of manners, pleasant, charming and very clever. The class conscious jokes about the lower orders and the servants are double-edged and add just a touch of squirm to the laughter of the not completely discerning audience. It is on the second level that The Importance of Being Earnest becomes one of the greatest plays ever written. On this level, the comedy is a full blown satire of Victorian society, and in particular of its audience. Wilde had the very great pleasure of flattering and making fun of the audience while being applauded for doing so. His subtitle for the play, "A Trivial Comedy for Serious People" is an allusion to these two levels. It is on this second level that Wilde speaks through the voice of Lady Bracknell (and sometimes Algernon), whose ironic and unself-conscious cynicism is so like his own. It is on this level that all the fun is made of the hypocrisy of marriage and its mercenary nature, at least as practiced by the petite bourgeoisie of London town, circa 1895. But there is a third level, a level known of course to the cognoscenti of the time and to modern audiences, but for the most part never dreamed of by the London theater-goers of the day. In this regard I have recently read that "Earnest" was a slang euphemism for being gay, and I suspect this is true. Indeed, I can imagine a whole world of witticism based on being "earnest" and being "Ernest," a world now (perhaps charitably) forgotten. Certainly this knowledge sheds some light on Algernon's invention of his invalid friend "Bunbury," whom he finds he must visit to escape unwanted social engagements.

One of the best things about this great play is one can appreciate it on any one of the three levels and find delight on that level alone. One can see Worthy as John Worthy, or as Jack Worthy, or as Ernest Worthy, however one likes. This adaptation, starring the incomparable Dame Edith Evans as Lady Bracknell, and Michael Redgrave (father of Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave) as John Worthy is of course the justly celebrated, clearly definitive screen adaptation. It should be noted, however, that Lady Bracknell is the real star of the show, and when she enters a scene, she steals it. Edith Evans was brilliant and unforgettable and obviously having a wonderful time. Margaret Rutherford is a scream as Miss Prism and Miles Malleson as Chasuble is just, shall I say, darling. I should note that both the male leads were a touch too old for their parts. Redgrave was 42 and Michael Denison, who played Algernon, was 37 when the movie was released in 1952. Yet I think Oscar Wilde would have approved of the casting, probably finding it admirable and fitting that these two men about town would have avoided marriage for so many years. (I won't mention the ages of the actresses.) Joan Greenwood as Gwendolyn achieves just the right amount of flaky innocence and calculated whimsy, while Dorothy Tutin is the very definition of the spoiled, sweet and adorable, man-hunting Cecily Cardew. The direction by Anthony Asquith is unnecessarily directive in the sense that he moved some scenes around, but is essentially without harm.

The best way to appreciate this play, and to pick up all the nuances, and there are nuances aplenty--and jokes upon jokes, sharp social and political observations, and witticisms within prevarications, and lies that are truths and vice-versa--is to view the video, just appreciating it on one level, then read the script, and then view the video again. You're in for a treat.

--Dennis Littrell, author of "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!"
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Confection...Sweet & Tart, April 4, 2000
By 
Peter T Webster (Holderness, NH United States) - See all my reviews
With the release of "An Ideal Husband" (starring Rupert Everett) last year, "The Importance of Being Earnest" is no longer the best Oscar Wilde movie. BUT -- it is still Wilde's funniest and sharpest satire AND the finest example of "Wilde Style" acting ever recorded on film.
This movie reeks of "thea-tah" in the best sense. Wilde characters live perfectly and carefully structured lives (it's part of the joke). These are not natural people...so don't expect a naturalistic movie. It's candy colored pastels, raised pinkies, and noses tilted defiantly to the sky. And always, always knowing exactly what to say, and how to say it.
The cast of "Earnest" is superb individually and as an ensemble. It includes stage and screen legends like Michael Redgrave, Dame Edith Evans, and the inimitalble Margaret Rutherford.
Invite your wittiest friends to tea...and watch this movie.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific movie, good DVD, January 3, 2003
This review is from: The Importance of Being Earnest (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
Many of the reviews here have a lot to say about the movie itself, but not much about the DVD presentation. That the movie is excellent is not in dispute. I'd also like to point out that everyone can and will appreciate it, not just english majors or art-film aficionados. Although the society it presents is utterly and completely different from our own modern ways, it's STILL a very very funny film with a wealth of one-line gems of Oscar Wilde wit.
The picture quality presented here on the Criterion DVD is incredibly vibrant and quite pleasing. The color is amazing considering the movie is half a century old (and also considering the DVD was digitally mastered from a print rather than a negative). Audio cleanup is unobtrusive and all the lines of dialogue are clear and understandable.
The biggest drawback with the DVD is the lack of extras. There is an original theatrical trailer, and a gallery of production stills, but that's all. Luckily it means the retail price is a bit lower than other Criterion titles, but it's still disappointing that more visual extras couldn't be included. The booklet is, as usual with Criterion discs, well worth reading.
Summary: great funny film for everyone, beautiful picture, weak on extras.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WHERE IS THAT BABY!, June 11, 2002
By 
JOHN D THOMPSON (NEW YORK, NY United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
At first this production seems stagey and artificial but after a few minutes and Wilde's lines take hold you realize that this is exactly what the material wants. And what material! You can see the actors' delight in this exercise of disciplined high jinks. But it is the women who really shine. Joan Greenwood's Gwendolyn is so enamoured of her own perfection that she almost can't stand it. But she does because she's a lady. Dorothy Tutin as Cecily is a sly puss who not only swallowed the canary but had it served up with a delicious cream sauce. Edith Evans pronounces Lady Bracknell's absurdities with such authority that she is almost terrifying. Like a depraved Saint. And Margaret Rutherford plays Miss Prism at full wattles. A joy.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hail Bunbury!, May 2, 2005
This review is from: The Importance of Being Earnest (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
It's absurd the way in which monumental movies from the past are devalued today. The acting in this original cinematic reproduction of Wilde's stupendous play is unrivaled. The cast is perfect. I wouldn't change an actor or a facial expression. You really have to wonder why Hollywood would make another version of this film (2002) as the Redgrave ensemble could not be improved upon.

Wilde's dialogue may be as good as in any other literary production in history. There are so many great lines that are released with machine gun repetition that the viewer will never be able to remember them all. In particular, the conversation between Jack and Lady Bracknell is absolutely hilarious. I wonder to myself how Wilde could have been so creative and gifted to have thought of this material in the first place. "Wilde" should be a synonym for wit in the dictionary as he has to be one of the most interesting writers in history.

Most important of all is the way that the movie makes you feel. It could defeat, at least temporarily, any depression one has and it takes viewers back to a time before our oppressive age of skepticism. The setting is a locale in which romance can be safely idealized and effortlessly enchants the audience. There is sublime beauty in love and friendship, and the best of human qualities are perpetually revealed in The Importance of Being Earnest.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Priceless - A must-have, October 4, 2002
By 
Irreverent "irreverent" (La Crosse, Wisconsin, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Importance of Being Earnest (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
I disagree with Patrick Moore's quibbles, and am delighted that sound and color recorded over 50 years ago survive so well.
Yes, this version takes minor liberties with the original. Wilde never mentioned "Ernest" singing "La Donn' e Mobile" in the tub with servants awaiting the final note's fair resounding before rinsing our star (Pavarotti was only 16 at the time, so we must settle for a baritone). In fact the original initial scene is in Algy's digs; "Ernest" is already dry and dressed, albeit with much the same dialog. In the film, no nasty solicitor wants to lock "Ernest" up for a trifling 762 Pounds (10 to 15 years' income for Algy's valet Lane) owed for supping if not stomping at the Savoy. These are the most significant departures, and I did not find them disturbing. As must be apparent, I sorta enjoyed the tub aria and believe Wilde might have liked it too.
Redgrave, father of Vanessa, Corin and Lynn, was 44, a bit too old to play a man of 29 in the company of a cast that is otherwise of appropriate age. Again, this is a minor point, especially given his brilliant performance.
I will not repeat others' praise of the performances of the cast beyond saying that in watching the marvelous BBC-TV version, I felt so sorry for its great cast, having to compete with these performances, and extend equal sympathy to Colin Firth & co. in the newly released film. Even legends Judi Dench (in the new film) and Joan Plowright (in the BBC set) could never say "A HA-and-BA-ag?!" like Edith Evans did. I admired Plowright for not trying to be Evans, whose delivery of this single line is mentioned on hundreds of web sites.
The costumes are stunning and appropriate to both period and cast. (Does anyone else feel sorry about the Birds of Paradise hacked apart to build the millenery? Folks didn't worry much about that in 1952, probably even less in 1895, so the headgear is probably authentic, even if counter to modern sensibilities.)
As good as the cast is, most giving the performance best remembered from a career of brilliancies, the real star, of course, is Oscar Wilde, who skewers the British upper crust so deliciously with line after clever priceless line. Half the lines in this play must have found their way into some collection or other by now.
This marvelously funny play is also a tragedy because it was Wilde's last great work when it should have been followed by volumes of others. Soon after its appearance, Wilde was ruined, villified, amd imprisoned, never saw his children again. He died poor, friendless, and miserable in a Paris hotel in 1900, his 46th year, five years after "Earnest's" first performance. What other delightful manifestations of his brilliance were denied us by society's inability to accept the bisexual nature that Wilde could not help? I'm a big hairy straight guy from a redneck background, but even I know that the most tragic loss of a Bird of Paradise in conjunction with this play was that of Wilde himself.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


39 of 49 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Misleading reviews, June 28, 2002
By 
Peter A. Fish (San Francisco CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The customer reviews for this tape are misleading. They are written about not about the tape being offered for sale, a 1988 BBC production of The Importance of Being Earnest. Instead, they refer to the 1952 film production, with Michael Redgrave and Dame Edith Evans. This is extremely misleading: after reading the reviews, I ordered the tape thinking I would be getting the 1952 film but got the 1988 version instead.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful production of Wilde's best loved comedy, June 16, 2005
By 
This review is from: The Importance of Being Earnest (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
This 1952 version of the Oscar Wilde classic romantic is as good to watch today as it ever was. Michael Redgrave stars as Ernest Worthing, (whose name, in fact, is really John), a man who, as a baby, had been found in a bag in the cloakroom at Victoria Station. The story is a comedy of errors and confusions around names, in particular the name Ernest. Mr Worthing wants to marry Gwendoline, daughter of the formidable Lady Bracknell. He dare not tell his beloved that his name is not really Ernest as she has expressed a desire only to wed a man of that name. Gwendoline's cousin, Algernon, is pursuing Mr Worthing's ward, Cecily, but she does not know his real name, she believes he is called Ernest. The comedy starts when Cecily and Gwendoline meet for the first time and realise they are both betrothed to `Ernest Worthington'. The film stars Margaret Rutherford as Miss Prism and Dame Edith Evans as the snobbish Lady Bracknell. Both actresses play their roles extremely well, as you would expect from such grand dames of the stage.

There are a few extras on this DVD (region 2 version) which include a profile of `The Importance of Being Earnest', a `behind the scenes' gallery, a theatrical trailer and biographies of the main actors and the director. The picture is crystal clear and the colours bright. Sound quality is good and there are subtitles for the hard of hearing. All in all, a very good version of one of Wilde's best known and loved works.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Production Worthy of Wilde!, November 27, 2000
For those of you who read my review on this book, you know that I gave it 4 stars. And this movie in no way falls short of the book! The right actors do the right parts, the acting is superb, the images are well done, the background music fits in nicely, and the pace is always maintained well. Subtle humor and hilarious events are juggled well. These people even managed to delete some of the material that doesn't really need to be there. It is rare these days to be able to find just the right person for the right part, create the perfect images, and maintain the essence of the book. But these people do it wonderfully! If you enjoyed the book, you WILL NOT want to miss this movie!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 28 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

The Importance of Being Earnest (The Criterion Collection)
$29.95 $23.59
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Rate and Discover Movies
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.