The Importance of Being Earnest

You can be forgiven for wondering if we really need another version of Oscar Wilde’s rambunctious Victorian-era play of manners captured on film. In this case, the answer is yes. Especially when directed with sparkly verve by Oliver Parker (who gave us An Ideal Husband). As he did for that 1999 gem, Parker rounds up a delightful, top-of-the-line cast (Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Judi Dench, Frances O’Connor, Tom Wilkinson) and coaxes amusing performances from all. Even the lone American, comic ingénue Reese Witherspoon, does a respectable job as the sheltered heiress Cecily Cardew. Everett and Firth make a dashing, rakish team of rogues who bring the party from London to the country house owned by Firth’s Jack Worthing. Dench is a marvel in this, as in all her roles. Classic material, compelling performances—you can’t go wrong here.

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