Thursday, June 23, 2011

Movie Review: The Importance of Being Earnest (2002)

The Importance of Being Earnest: A Trivial Comedy for Serious People was written by Oscar Wilde and first performed in 1895.[1] It was shocking because it mocked many Victorian ideals, including education, marriage, and piety. In fact, the target of his satire, the Victorian ideal of earnestness makes an appearance in the title, as does its opposite (which itself is the prevailing attitude of the play): triviality.[2] However, the play was overshadowed by a greater controversy when John Sholto Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry tried to expose the homosexual affair between his son, Lord Alfred Douglas, and Oscar Wilde. This eventually led to Wilde being charged with sodomy and gross indecency, and convicted of the latter. As a result of the ensuing public scandal, all of Wilde's plays were shut down.[3] I was generally unaware of the play until I read it with the BYU 38th Ward Book Club while I was an undergraduate at BYU. I thought it might be something that Leann would enjoy, so I queued it up in Netflix. (And I made sure to get the one that had Colin Firth in it.)

My verdict: Even now the way that the characters make light of certain institutions were enough to shock a few laughs out of me. However, unlike in Wilde's day, such mockery is commonplace and so I didn't feel alarmed by it. Thus I find it a rather fun performance and I think it translated rather well to the silver screen. The acting is moderately good [5], with the exception of Judy Dench, who was very good. My only real complaint (and I had the same complaint about the play when I read it) is that it's rather long and drawn out to justify the silly pun at the end.


[1] See Importance of Being Earnest.

[2] See Importance of Being Earnest#As a satire of society.

[3] See Wilde#Trials.

[4] It also has Rupert Everett, who was as melodramatic as ever, Reese Witherspoon, and Judy Dench.

[5] The actress who played Gwendolyn, Frances O'Connor, inexplicably had the same facial expressions and mannerisms as Emma Watson, who plays Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films.


  1. I liked that movie. It is rather long, though.

  2. I didn't think it was long; I just thought the pun at the end didn't justify a two-hour play/movie. Thankfully, there is plenty of humor throughout.