Customer Reviews


521 Reviews
5 star:
 (254)
4 star:
 (118)
3 star:
 (73)
2 star:
 (34)
1 star:
 (42)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Far better than I had anticipated
After reading the reviews of this 2002 production of The Importance of Being Earnest here and elsewhere, I must say my expectations were fairly low. What a wonderful surprise awaited me. The fact that Oliver Parker chose to make a FILM, rather than a filmed play, seems to have upset a number of people. Nevertheless, he made savvy - if sometimes audacious - choices in...
Published on September 20, 2004 by Lulu

versus
77 of 94 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A misinterpretation of a great play
This is an inventive and artful production of Oscar Wilde's play, but I can confidently say that were Oscar Wilde alive today, he would be appalled at the misuse to which his play has been put. Indeed I think I feel the ground rumbling as he rolls over in his grave, and yes he is actually spinning in anguish.

Oliver Parker, who directed and wrote the screen...
Published on May 1, 2003 by Dennis Littrell


‹ Previous | 1 253 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

77 of 94 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A misinterpretation of a great play, May 1, 2003
This is an inventive and artful production of Oscar Wilde's play, but I can confidently say that were Oscar Wilde alive today, he would be appalled at the misuse to which his play has been put. Indeed I think I feel the ground rumbling as he rolls over in his grave, and yes he is actually spinning in anguish.

Oliver Parker, who directed and wrote the screen adaptation, simply misinterpreted the play. He focused on the "dashing young bachelors" when the real focus of the play is Lady Bracknell, the absurd and beautifully ironic representation of the Victorian mind who was then and has been for over a hundred years Wilde's singular creation and one of the great characters of English literature. She is supposed to steal every scene she is in and we are to double take everyone of her speeches as we feel that she is simultaneous absurd and exactly right. Instead Judi Dench's Lady Bracknell (and I don't blame Dench who is a fine actress) is harsh and stern and literal to the point of being a controlling matriarch when what Wilde had in mind was somebody who was both pompous and almost idiotic yet capable of a penetrating and cynical wisdom (so like the author's). Compared to Dane Edith Evans's brilliant performance in the celebrated cinematic production from 1952, Dench's Lady Bracknell is positively one-dimensional.

The point of Wilde's play was to simultaneously delight and satirize the Victorian audience who came to watch the play. This is the genius of the play: the play-goer might view all of the values of bourgeois society being upheld while at the same time they are being made fun of. Not an easy trick, but that is why The Importance of Being Earnest is considered one of the greatest plays ever written. This attempt to turn it into a light entertainment for today's youthful audiences fails because this play is not a romantic comedy. It is more precisely a satire of a romantic comedy. Its point and Wilde's intent was to make fun of Victorian notions of romance and marrying well and to expose the mercantile nature of that society. It is probably impossible to "translate" the play for the contemporary film viewer since a satire of today's audiences and today's society would require an entirely different set of rapiers.

Parker's additions to the play amount to distractions that dilute the essence of the play's incomparable wit. Most of Wilde's witticisms are lost in the glare of Parker's busy work. Recalling Lady Bracknell as a dance hall girl in her youth who became pregnant before being wed was ridiculous and not only added nothing, but misinterpreted her character. Lady Bracknell is not a hypocrite with a compromised past. She is everything she pretends to be and that is the joke. Showing Algernon actually running through the streets to escape creditors or being threatened with debtor's prison was silly and again missed the point. Algy was "hard up" true and in need of "ready money" but his bills would be paid. Gwendolyn in goggles and cap driving a motor car also added nothing and seemed to place the play some years after the fact.

The big mistake movie directors often make when adapting a stage play into a movie is to feel compelled to get the play off the stage and out into the streets and countryside. Almost always these attempts are simply distractions. Some of the greatest adaptations--Elia Kazan's A Streetcar Named Desire from 1951 comes immediately to mind--played it straight and didn't try anything fancy. Here Parker seems obsessed with "dressing up" the play. What he does is obscure it.

On the positive side the costumes were beautiful and Anna Massy was an indelible Miss Prism. Reese Witherspoon at least looked the part of Cecily and she obviously worked hard. Rupert Evertt had some moments in the beginning that resembled Wilde's Algernon, but he was not able to sustain the impersonation.

My recommendation is that you not bother with this production and instead get the 1952 film starring, in addition to Edith Evans, Michael Redgrave and Margaret Rutherford. It is essentially true to the play as Wilde wrote it, and is a pure delight.

--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


12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Far better than I had anticipated, September 20, 2004
By 
After reading the reviews of this 2002 production of The Importance of Being Earnest here and elsewhere, I must say my expectations were fairly low. What a wonderful surprise awaited me. The fact that Oliver Parker chose to make a FILM, rather than a filmed play, seems to have upset a number of people. Nevertheless, he made savvy - if sometimes audacious - choices in adapting Oscar Wilde's oft-produced play for the cinema.

While most people agree that Ernest is one of the wittiest plays in the English language, I find that stage productions of it have an unfortunate tendency towards being precious: smug actors smirk at one another as they affectedly recite epigrams in between sips of tea (pinkies out, naturally). Parker's film nicely sidesteps this potential problem by transforming the prototypical English drawing-room comedy into a dynamic, visually rich and marvelously acted film. You also may be pleased to know that the oft-heard caviles regarding Reese Witherspoon's English accent are completely unwarranted. Highly recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


110 of 138 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The wages of pride, November 24, 2002
I cannot imagine a better cast for this film. That makes this dreadful travesty of Oscar Wilde's play even more appalling. Oliver Parker's hubris in thinking that he can improve on Oscar Wilde and one of the finest comedies in the English language is an outrage. He has cut some of Wilde's best lines, only to replace them with idiotic dream sequences, a ridiculous subplot involving Algernon's creditors, and even a hot-air ballon ride. Further, the production is heavy-handed and the music is just wrong.
All this pales in comparison to the overwhelming vulgarity of the scene in which Gwendolyn gets a tattoo, and fabricating a past as a chorus girl for Lady Bracknell. Mr. Parker clearly understands neither the characters, the play, nor Mr. Wilde himself. I can only conclude that his credit on An Ideal Husband is in error.
It is one thing to dig up Mr. Wilde's bones, but Mr. Parker has gnawed on them. He should be sentenced to a term in Reading Gaol for his overweening presumption and prohibited, by force if necessary, from ever again making another film.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


69 of 92 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Importance of Being Accurate, September 3, 2002
By A Customer
Any film that boasts, "Based on a play by Oscar Wilde, additional dialogue by" anybody at all immediately goes on my suspicious list. What, a screenplay ready-made by one of the wittiest playwrights of all time isn't good enough? Especially when the "additions" add unnecessary plot twists (Algie getting arrested? Lady Bracknell as a chorine? Hello?!) and, worst of all, change the ending. Rupert Everett exchanges his ebullient and suave persona, so admirably displayed in "An Ideal Husband," for a faded, dissolute air which he suddenly replaces with, yes, earnestness for the final scene. Dame Judi Dench, normally a comic delight, tanks all too many lines by stating them with enraged self-importance. Reese Witherspoon is lightweight--not entirely her fault, since the director cuts her lines and replaces them with bizarre dream sequences--and Frances O'Connor is simply unpleasant. Both women's roles were originally written as supremely practical EXCEPT for their strange fascination for a certain name; this movie makes that fixation the most sane thing about them. I am giving this movie one star solely for the presence of Colin Firth, whose modulated and occasionally exultant performance is as near to right-on as this movie will allow. Too bad he didn't get to deliver his penultimate line as Wilde intended; he would have done it well. Skip this film. Watch the witty and elegant Michael Redgrave version instead.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Misconceived, December 14, 2002
By 
Oddly unsatisfactory, despite spot-on casting in some roles. Firth, Everett and Dench are particularly good; but director Oliver Parker seems to have no faith in the brilliant wordplay that makes this unsubstantial comedy one of the greatest ever written. The bizarrely anachronistic touches, such as sexual aggression and tattooing, do not serve and in fact hurt the movie; Cecily's fantasy sequences are strange and disruptive; Reese Witherspoon and Frances O'Connor are respectable but not spectacular. Buy the original with the unforgettable Dame Edith Evans.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a treat, July 5, 2004
By 
Be You (Boston, MA United States) - See all my reviews
I haven't seen the 1952 version of Earnest, but I must say that I love this one. I laughed the whole way through. Purists might say that the dialogue goes too slowly, that the acting was underdone, or that Reese Witherspoon was miscast. My opinion: the dialogue is, of course, brilliant. It's Oscar Wilde. It is also delivered wonderfully, with perfect expressions that make the witty lines even more funny. Attention is, at times, required to catch these little expressions, but they are what help make the film so great. Also: I loved the casting. I loved it the first time I saw the film. I appreciate the casting even more now that I've read the actual play--the actors portray the characters exceptionally well, with all the quirks and nuances that I gleaned from the book. The add-ins (like the knight in Cecily's daydreams) make the movie, in my opinion, even more delightful. It should be quirky, and, thank goodness, it is. I highly recommend this film--it is a very well-done, lighthearted story full of wit. I definitely enjoyed it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars One star for Rupert Everette, November 16, 2002
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 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, and listed here, 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 this version. 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 (and why I gave it one star). 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 she's pathetic.
The new EARNEST plays like an old record on warped speed compared with the Michael Redgrave film. Wilde's 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


17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A good cast wasted., August 19, 2004
By 
BAW "BAW" (Charleston, WV United States) - See all my reviews
Every one of the actors and actresses is an extremely talented person, and could have been good in a different production of the play. It was obvious that the director didn't understand the play, and was taking a totally wrongheaded approach to it.

"Ernest" is a drawing room comedy. Hacking up the different scenes--moving from the club to Lady Bracknell's townhouse or from the country house to the church--destroys that. The tatoo parlor scene was entirely gratuitous. Showing Canon Chasibule's drawings was a total misreading of the character. Making Algy the older of the guys was wrong; if Wilde had wanted it that way, he would have WRITTEN it that way. And having Algy and Ernest getting into a physical struggle over the muffins was just wrong, wrong, WRONG--it violated the whole spirit of the play, which is the use of WORDS and LANGUAGE.

I just hope that some day the same cast gets together to do this again--under a director who knows what he is doing.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Utterly Abysmal & Disgraceful, November 30, 2002
By A Customer
I love this play and have seen numerous productions of it over the years including the 100th anniversary performance at the Old Vic in London in 1995 (a splendid Lady Bracknell performed by Barbara Leigh-Hunt from Pride and Predjudice). I have also read the play a few times as well savoring Wilde's wit as I would a fine cabernet. This Oliver Parker adaptation on the otherhand is pure swill.
As with his recent adaptation of Othello, Parker's vision and pacing for Earnest are all wrong. Gone are the elements of quick wit, Victorian manners and high-farce, replaced by a trashy and unpleasant opium-induced rag-time catastrophe.
Never has Reese Witherspoon been less charming, Dame Judy less regal or Colin Firth less properly mannered.
Truly, a farce of a farce.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I am not Wilde about all of the changes in the classic play, December 29, 2002
By 
Amazon Customer (The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (COMMUNITY FORUM 04)   
"The Importance of Being Earnest" is a film where if you do not know the play (which earns five stars), then you would give this movie four stars but if you do it gets only three. Both the strengths and the weaknesses of this adaptation of Oscar Wilde's play can be laid at the feet of writer-director Oliver Parker, who attempts to make the 19th-century comedy more palatable to a 21st-century audience. The result can be aptly characterized as one step forward, two steps back. Parker adds a sense of energy to the interactions of these sedate Victorian characters (there is, believe it or not, hugging in this film between gentlemen), which tends to work against the ideal delivery of Wilde's dry witticisms.
On the one hand the addition of a minor sub-plot involving paying an outstanding bill at a London establishment adds to the general sense of confusing regarding Earnest/John/Algy, which aptly fits the skewed way in which the truth functions in this story. But then Parker decides to add his own joke at the end which totally negates the principle that makes this all work out in the end (I was going to give the film four stars until that point). Similarly, the quick flashback into how Aunt Augusta met and won Lord Bracknell is nothing more than a cheap laugh because it "truth" defies all reason regarding the workings of the British upper class, especially during the Victorian Era.
Parker does nicely expand the idea of little Cecily and her fantasy world represented by her dairy and her habit of writing love letters to herself, in terms of her idealized visions of knightly romance. But while the idea of the servants sitting around playing assorted musical instruments in the kitchen was funny, having John and Algernon serenading Cecily and Gwendolyn on piano and guitar seems a bit forced. Again, I acknowledge the probability that only those who are familiar with the play and who recognize these changes as changes.
The cast does its best work with Wilde's original material. Colin Firth (Jack) first impressed me as the only Mr. Darcy I have seen in "Pride & Prejudice" who managed to make the transition from being proud to being human. Rupert Everett (Algy) should have at least received as Oscar nomination for stealing every scene he had in "My Best Friend's Wedding." Judy Dench (Lady Bracknell) is as professional an actress as we have today; I always think of the scene in "Shakespeare in Love" when Gwyneth Paltrow is about to curtsey instead of bow and Queen Elizabeth just makes her pupil dilate to convey a message. Her interview scene with Jack best preserves Wilde's original play. Reese Witherspoon (Cecily) holds her own with the English cast and gets points for tackling Wilde. Frances O'Connor (Gwendolyn) is the relative newcomer of the cast, but the fact she had a title role in a BBC production of "Madame Bovary" is a good sign. Tom Wilkinson is rather wasted as Dr. Chasuble, but it is nice to see a familiar face, as is the case with Edward Fox who nails his too few lines as Lane. Anna Massey as Miss Prism completes the main cast and provides the key piece to the big puzzle.
Ironically, I enjoyed "An Ideal Husband," Parker's earlier screen adaptation of Wilde play, and was going to suggest it as a better example of the work of Oscar Wilde. However, I had never seen or read that particular play, so for all I know Parker took as many liberties with that one as he does with "The Importance of Being Earnest." At least there is an attempt at something of an Oscar Wilde revival, which is something that is necessary every generation. While biopics like "Wilde" are good, there is no substitute for exposure to the plays themselves, even in these altered forms.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 253 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

The Importance of Being Earnest
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oliver Parker (DVD - 2011)
$14.98 $6.49
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.