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A Reel Life film section

Issue: Summer 2015-6

The Importance of Being Earnest (2016) movie review

Comedy of Heirs

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Movie poster, The Importance of Being Earnest

Captured LIVE for cinemas from London's Vaudeville Theatre. A superb satire on Victorian manners and one of the funniest plays in the English language, the delightful repartee and hilarious piercing of hypocrisy will make you laugh out loud!

This production strays not at all from the text and spirit of the original. And a good thing too. If one shares one's private thoughts with all of Twitter, one would have nothing sensational to read on the train!

The play featured big, brash performances - scenes were stolen, scenery was chewed, nobody was guilty of letting a gag go unnoticed. Miss Prism and Doctor Chasuble were especially delightful. Cecily and Gwendoline contrasted beautifully, and the two bachelors, well, top fellows both. My theatre going partner, a student who read this play not long ago in school, found the performances a little overstated. Perhaps they were worried the audience wouldn't understand the subtleties of the plot if they didn't shout everything. Well, it's not actually shouted, but let's just say, you will know when to laugh.

We do have to discuss Lady Bracknell. It's 2016 now - how do we feel about women's roles going to men? Does Britain not have enough female actors up to the task? It most assuredly does. Are we being told that older women with authority are practically men? Or man-like? And how do we feel about that? David Suchet gave a tremendous performance, no doubt, but I felt for the female actors of a certain age who are waiting to join the ranks of the Legends of Theatre.

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David Suchet as Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest © Nobby Clark

This production doesn't attempt to update the story. None of the performances would have been out of place in the very first season.

And does that work? It does. There is no need to update anything - Wilde has built enough joy into this play to last a few more decades at least. The cast make every delicious line work, and we savour the experience along with them. I enjoyed the fact that in spite of doing so many silly things, no character looks particularly silly to us. They are just doing what they need to do, to find happiness in life.

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The Importance of Being Earnest ensemble cast © Nobby Clark

Mr Oscar Wilde would have, had we adequately explained just how a London play came to be performed in a Melbourne cinema, given this production his hearty approval.

Now, I'd love to discuss this more, but I just found out my dear friend Bunbury is terribly ill, and I must attend to him.

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by Pauline Laing
Australian release 6 Feb 2016
For credits and official site details, see below
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Just the facts:

Title: The Importance of Being Earnest (2016)
Written by: Oscar Wilde
Directed by: Adrian Noble
Running time: 148 mins

The Players: David Suchet, Emily Barber, Michael Benz, Philip Cumbus, Imogen Doel

Official website:
IMDb entry

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