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Algy and Jack discover that they have both been "Bunberrying", that is, assuming different identities in order to enjoy themselves in a guilt-free manner. Jack's pretending to be his foolish younger brother, Ernest in order to be a model of moral rectitude to his young ward, Cecily. Jack intends to propose to Gwendolyn--that is until he discovers that she loves him because his name is Ernest. He sets about being rechristened. And when Cecily intends to meet her bad cousin Ernest, and Algy seizes the opportunity, it will take the imperious Lady Bracknell, Miss Prism's recollections about her handbag, and an army list to clear the matter up, and allow true love to run its course. Written by
BBC film is a faithful look at Wilde's classic play
This movie is the most faithful version of Oscar Wilde's play, "The Importance of Being Earnest," put on film. By all rights, one might expect it to be the best. The BBC made it a full 15 minutes longer than the 1952 film. It keeps the target of the farce and satire. But it just doesn't stand up to Anthony Asquith's 1952 film. Had we not had that film first, many of us would likely raise this film a notch. But we do have the 1952 film, so the two beg comparison.
I don't think there can be any doubt that the major difference is in the cast and the directing. The biggest weakness in this 1986 BBC film is in the characters and roles overall. While the cast are established English actors, they aren't of the caliber of the several leads and supporting cast of the 1952 film. Most of the lead performers in this film quite simply don't seem to fit their roles very well. That, and the director doesn't probe them to get the most out of the characters. Even Joan Plowright's character doesn't quite reach the level of abhorrent societal imbecility that the role demands.
Paul McGann and Rupert Frazer especially are not well cast in their roles as Jack and Algy. The female leads are somewhat better, but still not fully developed by Amanda Redman and Natalie Ogle. Some of the supporting roles are better. But the directing just doesn't bring the satire and farce out very forcefully. It needs to do that to raise this above plain comedy status.
This BBC rendition is entertaining, and worth a viewing for those who may not have seen a movie version yet of this classic Wilde play. But for lovers of wit and satire, Wilde and the classics, the real treat comes in watching the 1952 film, with Michael Redgrave, Edith Evans, Joan Greenwood, Michael Denison, and others.
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