September, 2002, Comedy


Oscar Wilde would undoubtedly turn up his very British nose at it, but the new film masquerading under title of his frothy play of the same name tries--with scattered success--to mine his particular feel for a “comedy of manners”. This one's set in Edwardian England, and stars a good number of the British faces that have graced American screens in the past few decades; Rupert Graves, (My Best Friend's Wedding) Colin Firth, (Bridget Jones' Diary) Judy Dench, (Shakespeare In Love) Tom Wilkinson, (In The Bedroom) and even the wonderful Edward Fox, (Day of the Jackal)  whose appearance is unfortunately confined to a few choice bits as Mr. Graves' butler.

Lighthearted duplicity in the pursuit of worthy goals trumps any noble truth that lacks charity and compassion; ‘tis Wilde's world, with only half the wit; still, the locations are wonderful, Dench carries more than her fair share of the load, and nobody plays a tight-assed British gentlemen of a certain age better than Firth, who makes looking constipated quite appealing.  The film is self-consciously sexist, (which Wilde's play mercifully isn't) but there's a wonderful sing-along in the middle, (cleverly reprised during the ending credits, so don't leave too soon) and the two male leads play off each other extremely well. 

The verdict? There are some pleasant lines here and a laugh or two--but this one’s more for the ladies than the gents.

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