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The Importance of Being Earnest

The Importance of Being Earnest (2002)



Average Rating: 6/10
Reviews Counted: 113
Fresh: 65 | Rotten: 48

Oliver Parker's adaptation of Oscar Wilde's classic play is breezy entertainment, helped by an impressive cast, but it also suffers from some peculiar directorial choices that ultimately dampen the film's impact.


Average Rating: 5.9/10
Critic Reviews: 37
Fresh: 21 | Rotten: 16

Oliver Parker's adaptation of Oscar Wilde's classic play is breezy entertainment, helped by an impressive cast, but it also suffers from some peculiar directorial choices that ultimately dampen the film's impact.



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Average Rating: 3.4/5
User Ratings: 31,856

My Rating

Movie Info

A superb cast brings Oscar Wilde's classic comedy of manners to life in the third big-screen adaptation of this hilarious look at fun, games, and dubious ethics among the British upper crust. Algernon Moncrieff (Rupert Everett) is a slightly shady, but charming gentlemen from a wealthy family who has a bad habit of throwing his money away. Algernon has a close friend named Jack Worthing (Colin Firth), a self-made man who acts as a ward to his cousin, a beautiful young lady named Cecily (Reese

Nov 12, 2002


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All Critics (117) | Top Critics (37) | Fresh (65) | Rotten (48) | DVD (22)

[An] utterly miscalculated film adaptation of Wilde's play.

March 26, 2009 Full Review Source: Variety | Comment (1)
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This may be a less than ideal "Earnest," but it still has delights...

November 1, 2007 Full Review Source: Newsweek
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You might suppose that Oscar Wilde's theatrical evergreen is indestructible. But that would be to reckon without the intervention of 'writer'/director Parker, who really makes a pig's ear of this silk purse.

June 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
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Wilde subtitled his masterpiece "A Trivial Comedy for Serious People." This movie seems intent on being a trivial comedy for trivial people.

August 7, 2004 Full Review Source: New York Magazine/Vulture
New York Magazine/Vulture
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The Importance of Being Earnest resonates and inspires rapid-fire bouts of laughter, perhaps even a few giggles from the author himself, whom posterity has rewarded the last laugh.

July 20, 2002 Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
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Though Mr. Parker's The Importance of Being Earnest is pleasant enough in its casting and performances, it doesn't work as it should.

June 6, 2002 Full Review Source: New York Observer
New York Observer
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Romance and deception in Wilde's clever comedy of manners.

March 15, 2011 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

The movie stumbles along awkwardly rather than tripping by wittily from beginning to end. The fault lies in Parker's needless embellishments.

June 25, 2004 Full Review Source: Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY)

Click to read review

January 12, 2004 Full Review Source:

Always destined to be measured against Anthony Asquith's acclaimed 1952 screen adaptation.

May 22, 2003 Full Review Source: RTE Interactive (Dublin, Ireland)

The ability to compress such a hilariously complex story into 97 minutes of film is a tribute both to Wilde's astounding economy with words and Parker's mastery of his source material.

February 8, 2003 Full Review Source: Film Quips Online
Film Quips Online

Could it be better cast? NO! It?s a frothy delight, true to the spirit of the original, but flavored with the permissiveness of the present.

November 29, 2002 Full Review

The souffle rises about a quarter of the way before stodgily collapsing in Oliver Parker's new version of Oscar Wilde's classic.

October 2, 2002 Full Review Source: Guardian

Despite a few distracting cinematic touches, Oliver Parker's 'Earnest' effort is a joy to watch -- and to hear.

September 30, 2002 Full Review Source: ReelTalk Movie Reviews
ReelTalk Movie Reviews

Shot in lavish Technicolor but restricted to a few well-designed sets, The Importance of Being Earnest is a small cinematic gem.

September 11, 2002
Q Network Film Desk

While the film doesn't quite stake its claim as a definitive reimagination, it is nonetheless a fun, energetic treatment of an engaging story.

August 26, 2002 Full Review Source: Entertainment Today
Entertainment Today

Handled correctly, Wilde's play is a masterpiece of elegant wit and artifice. Here, alas, it collapses like an overcooked soufflé.

August 26, 2002 Full Review Source:

...a curiously unambitious film, content to fill up a couple of hours with sugar talk and pretty pictures

July 31, 2002 Full Review
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

The film lacked the capriciousness it required...

July 20, 2002 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

It's so full of wrong choices that all you can do is shake your head in disbelief -- and worry about what classic Oliver Parker intends to mangle next time.

July 15, 2002 Full Review Source: Journal News (Westchester, NY)
Journal News (Westchester, NY)

Like watching a dress rehearsal the week before the show goes up: everything's in place but something's just a little off-kilter.

July 8, 2002
Matt's Movie Reviews

Audience Reviews for The Importance of Being Earnest

This adaptation of the classic play is a very nice tribute, keeping the dialogue and characters, very close to home. What I must comment on, is that the settings and outdoor scenes felt a little understudied. There is a particular scene that should have taken place in the living room, but ended up displaying it outside as Cecily climbs down a ladder. I absolutely love the story of how two friends meet a love of their life, and are both disapproved by someone or another. It is such a funny idea to have both girls in love with the name earnest, while figuring out that both men calling themselves Earnest, do not even helm that proper name. The overall story is a brilliant little tale that I will probably refer to for a long time, and the play does portray the substance with perfection, but the few scenes of dumb humour, the set locations, the al bait too short running time, and odd take for direction, slightly degrades the effectiveness that the play brought upon. However, I highly enjoy this film, and I would have no problem recommending it to anyone, even if that haven't read the play!
January 26, 2012
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer

Cast: Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Frances O'Connor, Reese Witherspoon, Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Anna Massey, Edward Fox, Patrick Godfrey, Charles Kay

Director: Oliver Parker

Summary: In this adaptation of Oscar Wilde's witty play about mistaken identities, Rupert Everett and Colin Firth star as two proper gentlemen in 1890s London who use the same pseudonym with disastrous results. At a country estate, they fall in love with two ladies -- Cecily (Reese Witherspoon) and Gwendolyn (Frances O'Connor). But the hilarious confusion that ensues from their noms de guerre could sink their respective chances at romance.

My Thoughts: "The movie was as silly and humorous as it was intended to be. The film is filled with a very talented cast of actor's from Colin Firth to Judi Dench. Loved the costumes and the scenery. It was an enjoyable film, but not something I would probably watch a second time."
February 13, 2011

Super Reviewer

This movie has its moments, but despite an excellent cast the attempts to jazz up the content detracted rather than added to the enjoyment. The whole pre-Raphaelite fantasy thing creaked like a rusty door. The wit and charm of the original play still pokes through with Firth, Dench, Wilkinson, etc. doing what they can, but these are almost obscured by this schoolboyish attempt to try a new angle.
November 2, 2010

Super Reviewer

A good film, based on a great play.

There are few who can match the writing skills of Oscar Wilde, especially when he is doing what he does best - social satire.

The cast is impressive and (mostly) fun to watch. Though I found the music and Ms. Witherspoon is a bit off putting. She seemed a bit out of place here.

But all in all an enjoyable little romp.
October 20, 2010
Robert C

Super Reviewer

Movies Like The Importance of Being Earnest

    1. Lady Bracknell: Never speak disrespectfully of Society, Algernon. Only people who can't get in do that.
    – Submitted by Frances H (21 months ago)
    1. Miss Prism: In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing.
    – Submitted by Frances H (21 months ago)
    1. Dr. Chasuble: Your brother Earnest is dead?
    2. Jack Worthing/Earnest: Qite dead.
    3. Miss Prism: What a lesson for him!
    – Submitted by Frances H (21 months ago)
    1. Lady Bracknell: To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing may be regarded as misfortune. To lose both can be regarded as more like carelessness.
    – Submitted by Frances H (21 months ago)
    1. Lady Bracknell: The whole theory of modern education is unsound. Fortunately, in England in a any case, education produces no effect what-so-ever.
    – Submitted by Frances H (21 months ago)
    1. Jack Worthing/Earnest: My dear fellow, the truth isn't quit the sort of thing one tells to a nice, sweet, refined girl. What extraordinary ideas you have about the way to behave to a woman.
    2. Algernon Moncrieff: The way to behave to a woman is to make love to her if she's pretty and to someone else if she's plain.
    3. Jack Worthing/Earnest: That is nonsense. You never talk anything but nonsense.
    4. Algernon Moncrieff: Well, nobody ever does.
    – Submitted by Frances H (21 months ago)
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