1999; Rated PG-13; 97 Minutes
Rupert Everett: Lord Arthur Goring
Julianne Moore: Mrs. Laura Cheveley
Jeremy Northam: Sir Robert Chiltern
Cate Blanchett: Lady Gertrud Chiltern
Minnie Driver: Mabel Chiltern
John Wood: Earl of Caversham
Produced by Nicky
Kentish Barnes, Andrea Calderwood, Bruce Davey, Uri Fruchtmann,
Ralph Kamp, Susan B. Landau, Barnaby Thompson and Paul L.
Tucker; Directed and screenwritten by Oliver Parker;
based on the play by Oscar Wilde
by DAVID KEYES
forte of Oscar Wilde is the 19th-century equivalent of William
Shakespeare's, because the words and phrases you hear are
so intelligent and unique that they echo in your head hours
after being heard. The only thing that makes them different
is the time period they were written in. Patently, both
men were way ahead of their period, changing the faces of
literature and theater in such a way that seems almost undoable
by today's writers. People of this caliber can absorb their
audience so effortlessly in their work, we imagine the job
is as easy for them as it is for us to ride a bicycle.
a new trend has sprung loose in the cinema, in which movies
tackle the famous work of legendary poets in attempt to
add contemporary realism to them. Is that because moviemakers
are running out of ideas? Maybe. Another possibility could
be that the average filmmaker enjoys a challenge, and bringing
literature like this to the screen is a difficult job. Alas,
most of the time we see Hollywood butcher the classic stories
in attempt to add fresh perspectives to century-old tales.
Thankfully, like John Madden and Kenneth Branagh, Oliver
Parker seemingly knows how to properly handle the job, and
his new screen adaptation of Wilde's "An Ideal Husband"
is an invigorating, original experience--probably the best
screen adaptation of any poet's work seen since Kenneth
Branagh's interpretation of "Hamlet."
an adaptation comes across effectively because the writer's
topics are not limited to certain time periods. The play
was written in 1895, and Parker's movie is done around the
same time period, with contemporary feeling. But peal away
the surface of the look and attitude, and what you find
underneath are the same misgivings that afflict every strip
of society--greed, lust, fear, anxiety, envy, blackmail--a
list that is compromised of virtually every form of human
dysfunction. "An Ideal Husband" is a work that can succeed
in several different time periods, simply because it contains
those physiognomies of typical human life. Maybe this is
why the story is considered Wilde's best.
this wonderful story is also blessed with a brilliant cast.
Front in line is Rupert Everett, who plays Lord Arthur Goring
, a man described by friends as the "idlest man in London."
And no wonder; his sharp wardrobe, dashing smile, strong
voice and taunting good looks are no match for anyone, except
the vivacious Mabel Chiltern (Minnie Driver), a woman who
is probably the only in existence to match his witticism
in verbal discussions. They flirt, pass smiles, dirty looks,
and interact as if they are destined lovers. Unfortunately,
Goring is not the kind of "idle" man to be anchored down
by marriage, and attempts to avoid the subject from his
ever-pressing father, the Earl of Caversham, result in some
scenes where the dashing gentlemen describes how he "loves
talking about nothing." The words are always clever, and
they arrive at just the right time.
there's Goring's closest friends, Lord Robert Chiltern (Jeremy
Northam) and his wife (Cate Blanchett). Chiltern's bride
is devoted to her husband down to the last drop of blood,
and not just because he is a wealthy gentlemen. She considers
him "the ideal husband," although later plot twists reveal
otherwise. Chiltern is preparing a report on condemning
a canal project, but a former acquaintance of the gentleman
named Laura Chevely has much at stake if the proposal is
accepted. Thus, blackmail comes into the picture, in which
Chevely (Julianne Moore) threatens to expose the illegal
way Chiltern attained his wealth if he does not speak positively
of the project.
are Oscar-worthy performances. Rupert Everett, who is always
under-appreciated by Academy voters, churns out an observant
portrayal of the "idles man of London," conveying all of
Wilde's dialogue on target . It is ostensible that he has
studied the playwrights work in the past. And Cate Blanchett,
who incessantly has the penchant of giving us Oscar-calibre
performances, comes off magnificent as Chiltern's wife,
who is sure she has married an honest man, but ultimately
unaware of his crimes of the past (at least for a certain
length of the movie).
plot and characters are dynamic, yes, but in terms of dialogue,
movies don't get any better than this. There is a certain
admiration we all have for delectable parley in the movies,
because, as Wilde taught us repeatedly, it can get us past
most, if any, problem areas within the plot. Sometimes,
without sweet words pouring from the mouths of the characters,
we lose interest in the story, and therefore the movie falls
into fragments. Oliver Parker's "An Ideal Husband" is one
of the finest examples of conversation outmatching story
and characters, a feat only accomplished by the classic
poets Wilde and Shakespeare. In a summer filled with creature
features, obscene teen comedies and cruel little cartoons,
here is something that steps up to the batting cage and
hits a home run.
1999, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.