DVD Talk
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Reviews & Columns
Ultra HD
International DVDs
Video Games

Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Anime Talk
DVD Stalk
DVD Savant
High-Def Revolution
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum
DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info

DVDTalk Info
Review Staff
About DVD Talk
Newsletter Subscribe
Join DVD Talk Forum
DVD Talk Feeds

Sponsored Links

Search: For:
Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Importance of Being Earnest (2002)
The Importance of Being Earnest (2002)
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // PG // November 12, 2002
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted November 28, 2002 | E-mail the Author
Buy from Amazon.com
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
Printer Friendly
Jack Worthing has a younger brother named Ernest, who's always in trouble in the city and needing his brother to come bail him out. Jack's friend Algy has an invalid friend named Bunbury, whose constant illnesses frequently require Algy to run up to the country to visit him. Ernest and Bunbury have just one thing in common: they're both entirely imaginary... and they both give their respective creators perfect excuses for bailing out of dull social obligations. But when Algy and Jack fall in love with the lovely Cecily and Gwendolyn, pandemonium ensues as the two playboys start getting entangled in their own complicated deceptions.

The Importance of Being Earnest is a playful, imaginative rendition of Oscar Wilde's play; it's one of the most polished play-to-film adaptations I've seen. The film is amazingly faithful to Wilde's original play, with his story intact and his witty dialogue word-for-word in most cases, but at the same time it has an open, expansive feel to it, allowing greater scope to the story than a simple drawing-room set could provide.

Most of the additions to the original play are visual elements: scenes that, without needing much dialogue, nonetheless add immensely to the flavor of the film. For instance, the opening scene of the film has Algie madly dashing through the streets of London to avoid his creditors; it's not in the play, but it's absolutely in character. Another brilliant addition is that when Cecily daydreams, the film itself is transformed into her fantasy-land day-dream, complete with knights in shining armor, white steeds, and flower petals floating through the air.

Oscar Wilde's dialogue is of course a highlight of the film, but director Oliver Parker doesn't allow the film to rest on its laurels in this respect; every aspect of the film works together to produce the total effect.

The Importance of Being Earnest is a period piece, playing with the manners and quirks of the society of the time, and the film's accurate 1890s setting reflects that. But while the setting provides an essential backdrop to the story, it never intrudes on that story. Everyone in the cast seems perfectly at ease, as if turn-of-the-century England were their normal environment, so that we are naturally led to focus on the delightful story and delicious absurdity of the characters.

The performances from the cast are excellent, from the main characters to the supporting ones. Colin Firth and Rupert Everett take the characters of Jack Worthing and Algernon Montcrieff right up to the border of farce, but not over it: their performances grow more and more amusing as their respective predicaments get stickier. Judi Dench is able to deliver the most nonsensical lines with a deadpan portentousness that is the essence of Lady Bracknell, and Anna Massey is simply absolutely perfect as Miss Prism. (I confess to a particular fondness for the character of Miss Prism, as I played the part in a high school production of the play, once upon a time; but even with sentimental attachment aside, Miss Prism is a gem.) Really, the same praise can be given equally to all the actors: they bring out the humorous absurdities in their characters, but not one of them ever overdoes it. The result is a film that grows steadily funnier and funnier as the story unfolds. And at 94 minutes, The Importance of Being Earnest is exactly as long as it should be, making it a short and sweet little gem of a film.

The camera work and the music also fit the light-hearted tone of the film perfectly. The cinematography is lively and mobile, not at all the stationary style that might be expected of a film adaptation of a stage play; interesting angles and fresh perspectives, along with a lively color scheme, make The Importance of Being Earnest visually engaging as well. The musical score for The Importance of Being Earnest is also exceptionally good: it not only fits the mood of the film like a glove, but the score is right on target to punctuate and support the events on-screen, while never being overstated.

One gets the impression that if Oscar Wilde could see the film, he would nod appreciatively at the adaptation. The tone is absolutely consistent throughout the movie, and absolutely right-on: The Importance of Being Earnest captures the sparkle and effervescence of a great play in an outstanding film adaptation.


The Importance of Being Earnest is presented in its original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio. The presence of moderately heavy edge enhancement is the only flaw in an otherwise excellent transfer. The print is clean; I didn't notice any flaws at all, and noise appears to be completely absent. Colors in this film are very strong, which appears to be a deliberate artistic choice to create visually striking scenes, as with Cecily and Miss Prism seated in the middle of a startlingly green lawn. The colors are bright and vivid, but not excessively so; even the most vivid reds and purples in Cecily's fantasy sequences remain clean and exhibit no bleeding at all. Overall, the film has a warm, bright look to it that perfectly complements the sprightly tone of the story.


The audio track for The Importance of Being Earnest is a well-rounded Dolby 5.1. For a film like this, it's crucial that the dialogue be crystal-clear, and it is. The music portion of the soundtrack complements the dialogue and on-screen action extremely well, and the soundtrack overall is perfectly balanced so that no element is ever too soft or too loud. All in all, it's a pleasing soundtrack that adds to the enjoyment of the film.

A dubbed French Dolby 5.1 soundtrack is also included, along with English captions for the hearing-impaired.


The main special feature of note is a full-length audio commentary by director Oliver Parker. There's also a small assortment of minor behind-the-scenes material: a seven-minute promotional-style "making of" featurette, and fourteen minutes of straight behind-the-scenes footage of various scenes as they were being filmed. The most interesting aspect of the latter segment is that some of these shots didn't make it into the final movie; however, I would much rather have had a "deleted scenes section" than this random chunk of footage. Trailers for several other Miramax films are also included in the DVD.

Final thoughts

The Importance of Being Earnest is a playful, joyous film that more than does justice to Oscar Wilde's fantastic play. The events of the story, and the characters themselves, are absurd, but we've known that from the beginning, and enjoyed every minute of it. The extravagant Victorian-melodrama ending (milked by Wilde for all the plot-twists possible) is simply the icing on the cake, a perfect topping for a delightful, funny story.

Other Reviews:
Popular Reviews
1. The New York Ripper (2019 4K Remaster)
2. Princess Mononoke Collector's Edition
3. A Film Trilogy by Ingmar Bergman (Through a Glass Darkly / Winter Light / The Silence)
4. RKO Classic Adventures (The Painted Desert / The Pay-Off / The Silver Horde)
5. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (4K)
6. Hotel Mumbai
7. Devil's Kiss
8. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
9. Crank
10. Serenity (2019)

Sponsored Links
DVD Blowouts
Alien [Blu-ray]
Buy: $19.99 $9.99
Sponsored Links
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Copyright 2019 DVDTalk.com All Rights Reserved. Legal Info, Privacy Policy, Terms of Use