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|Index||129 reviews in total|
As I left this movie, someone said "How nice to see an intelligent
The risk going in was that it would be ONLY an intelligent - or at least clever - piece, all period manners and costumes. In fact, with all the Oscar Wilde wit which sounds wonderfully fresh here, there are also rich moments of emotional depth throughout this amusing but also quite moving film.
One theme here - touching in hindsight - is how little it can take to destroy a reputation - Wilde was later to have some of the most painful possible firsthand experience of this. But the central question here, which anchors the humor and beauty that decorate it, is the cost of rigorous, even rigid, honesty. And the growth of the central characters on this point shines through, even through the dance of wit and farce.
Underpinning this is a surprising faith in human nobility, quite in contrast to the ironic persona Wilde maintained. It struck me while watching it both that Wilde had very French characteristics - a continental finesse, the love of repartee - and yet was profoundly an English writer by virtue of his faith in fair play and the bonds of (platonic) male friendship.
In fact, Lord Goring, whose world-weary ways make him something of a surrogate for Wilde, is a distant cousin to Sidney Carton in coming to the defense of a 'nobler' friend even at great (possible) sacrifice to himself. His very lack of seriousness is what makes his efforts on behalf of his friends so moving.
With this, the pure visual beauty of actors like Cate Blanchett and Rupert Everett, matched by sumptuous costumes and sets, adds a sensuous element which, in a lesser film, might have dominated the movie. They, with Minnie Driver in cheeky comic form and Julianne Moore sweetly evil and superbly English, make it a delight both to watch and to savor later as tart food for thought.
To say that this film is a filmmaking tour de force would be a great
injustice. It is far better than that. Oliver Parker's revitalizing of
Oscar Wilde's classic play is filmmaking at its finest.
Every element of this film is superlative. Wilde's story as adapted to the screen by Parker is witty, intelligent and engaging from start to finish. Seldom can you find a story that attempts to be a romantic comedy, a tale of duplicity blackmail and betrayal, and a drama of political intrigue, and succeeds so well on all counts.
The intricate weave of deception, manipulation and double entendre along with comic misperception, irony and rapier witted dialogue are delicious and classic Wilde. This is a film you will want to see again and again, just to discover all the lines within the lines.
I cannot say enough about the brilliance of Oliver Parker's direction in this film. He has captured late 19th Century aristocratic England with vivid and rich images that put the viewer right into the period. David Johnson's cinematography is fantastic, with every scene working well as to lighting and color. The beautiful blend of colors in the costumes and the set always looked like they belonged together. Parker also provides numerous interesting camera angles that help dramatize the scenes. It serves to remind us that glorious films can still be made relying on the creative eye of the director rather than special effects.
The acting was delightful. Rupert Everett, as the self absorbed Lord Arthur Goring, delivers an exquisite performance as the unscrupulous rogue upon whom the mantle of truth and honor is laid.
Julianne Moore was delightful as the evil and cunning Mrs. Cheveley. As cold, manipulative and heartless as she is with Chiltern and Lady Chiltern, she is that vulnerable and helpless with Lord Goring, for whom she has long held a flame. Moore handles this emotional juggling act with great skill and you find yourself simultaneously loving her ingeniousness and hating her treachery.
Cate Blanchett turns in another wonderful performance as the oh-so-perfect, Lady Gertrud Chiltern. Jeremy Northam is also excellent as Robert Chiltern, the man of untouchable character with a scandalous secret in his past. Even Minnie Driver is charming as Robert's sister.
This is a terrific film for the refined viewer who appreciates all aspects of filmmaking. Even for those not into the art of filmmaking, it is simply great entertainment. I can think of no negative criticism of it. It is well written, directed, photographed and acted. It is filmmaking the way it was meant to be. A perfect 10.
If I weren't so lazy, I would have checked the original play to see if my
favorite line from the movie was in it:
Goring's father: I use nothing but my common sense. Goring: So my mother tells me.
Even if was concocted for the film, that line still contains the essence of Wilde and the essence of all modern British humor, for which, I should say, I'm a major sucker. While watching An Ideal Husband, I didn't object to the lack of suspense as long as Rupert Everett was working his way around those Wilde lines, which he does as well as anyone I've ever heard.
I used to think Stephen Fry was Wilde on earth, but Fry is something wonderfully different -- Everett is Wilde on earth, or at least the actor that Wilde should have had around to deliver those lines when he wrote them. I first saw Everett in The Madness of King George, for which he put on weight. Every review of that film mentioned this; I thought the attention excessive, but when I saw him lying shirtless in a sauna, I understood. The man is, shall we say, cut. I can only imagine the effect of that scene on straight women or gay men -- probably something akin to the effect Greta Scacchi's "I think we're alone now" smile at the end of The Coca-Cola Kid has on me.
An Ideal Husband is full of good performances, with one glaring exception: the usually great Julianne Moore. Her scenes are curiously leaden, and Parker -- whose fault this may be -- has the camera linger over her as though the exposure will convince us how evil she is. The one exception is her scene with Everett, which has a real "Will he sleep with the enemy?" tension. It may be that Moore was just outclassed by the Brits, who are born to this stuff.
Cate Blanchett, whom I've seen in three movies, two of which were British period pieces, continues to amaze me with her range.
The unsung hero of the movie is Jeremy Northam, who takes a thankless role -- the man in the play who isn't the Oscar Wilde figure -- and makes it emotionally compelling. He is responsible for the play's only real suspense and emotion, since the rest is word games, more or less.
All of which leads me to blame the production's shortcomings on its writer/director, Oliver Parker. He seems to have squandered an outstanding cast. The play's final scene is played as a series of French scenes -- a film term for a series of different scenes in the same location -- and this kills any momentum that scene might have had.
Three out of four stars, I say, which makes it better than 90% of the movies out there.
As we prepare to enter the 21st Century, An Ideal Husband allows us to see the world, England in particular, as we enter the 20th Century, and who better to guide us than Oscar Wilde. The story is not unfamiliar --- politics, blackmail, love, and friendship. What is different however is how these are viewed thru the prism of the Victorian Era, the centerpiece of the film. The cast was superb from Jeremy Northam, Sir Robert Chiltern the title character, to Cate Blanchett, Lady Gertrud Chiltern his wife, to Minnie Driver, Mabel Chiltern his sister, to Rupert Everett, Lord Arthur Goring his friend, and Julianne Moore, Mrs. Cheveley. The minor characters of Lord Goring's father and butler were good as well. Although all were very good, Rupert Everett stole the show. His character is the one who connects all the others and does so with grace, charm, and wit. Which brings me to my final point, the film is filmed filled with witty dialogue and double-entendre a la Oscar Wilde. I went to see this movie twice. It was that good and appreciated it more the second time. I can not see how this movie could have been better. Four stars!!!
An Ideal Husband - ****
In 19th Century London, Sir Robert Chiltern (Jeremy Northam,) is a successful member of parliament married to the virtuous, fabulously popular Lady Gertrud Chiltern (Cate Blanchett.) Sir Robert's sister Mabel (Minnie Driver) is infatuated with Sir Robert's friend, Lord Arthur Goring (Rupert Everett.) The dashing Lord Goring, the wealthy son of the Earl of Caversham, is an inveterate bachelor who lives a life of leisure. Into this already crowded picture drops Mrs. Laura Cheveley (Julianne Moore,) an Austrian socialite with two ex-husbands and a convoluted past. Not only was she briefly engaged to Lord Goring, but it seems that she possesses evidence that the noble Sir Robert once committed a terrible indiscretion. Mrs. Cheveley uses this explosive evidence in her attempt to blackmail Sir Robert into voting against his conscience on the floor of Parliament. What ensues is a fascinating examination of honor and idealism. We learn that the noble Sir Robert is less than perfect, while the rakish bachelor Lord Goring possesses a surprising level of honor and insight.
If Shakespeare in Love deserved an Oscar, this film deserves the Nobel Prize. It is simply outstanding in every respect. The first thing one notices is the dialogue. It is a bit stiff and stilted, as was the custom in London at the time, but it also possesses a razor sharp wit and sly sense of humor. Every last character speaks with intelligence and humor. The verbal fireworks, particularly as provided by Lord Goring, illuminate character and motivation while simultaneously producing guffaws from the audience. The plot structure is a marvel. There are no explosions, fireballs, or car chases, but the picture achieves a certain breathlessness simply through its intricate layering of multiple characters, all with intertwining motivations, interests, and connections with one another. A prime example of this is the scene in which poor Lord Goring receives multiple visitors at his home in a single night. All of the visitors have conflicts with one another, so Lord Goring must segregate them and move from room to room, listening to their problems and providing insights. The costumes and locations are all excellent. I particularly liked the manner in which Sir Robert's bright home is contrasted with Lord Goring's dark and cavernous bachelor pad. The one complaint I have is with the film's music; it seemed too light and frivolous, overplaying the "madcap shenanigans" element of the picture. But this is a minor quibble indeed.
The acting is first rate across the board. Jeremy Northam (yes, he could play James Bond) is well suited to the role of Sir Robert. He exudes intelligence, honor, and duty. Julianne Moore, as Mrs. Cheveley, seems to relish the conniving and scheming of her character. Cate Blanchett and Minnie Driver capably bring depth and intelligence to their limited roles. But the true star of the film is Rupert Everett as Lord Arthur Goring. Mr. Everett has had a promising career to this point, but An Ideal Husband is his breakout role. In this film he is witty, charming, caring, wise, devilish, and childish all at once. Lord Goring is the kind of man that makes women swoon and men flock around to hear funny stories. He reminded me of Cary Grant - only better. Someone give that man an Academy Award.
"An Ideal Husband" is a charming though contrived little 19th century English period comedy with the subtly sardonic sense of humor typical of Oscar Wilde. The film, which deals with the politics of society first, the politics of the heart second, and the politics of the state last, features all the trappings of the period, a solid cast, and a clever script. An amusing and enjoyable watch for those into 19th century English period films.
One of the principal sources of humour in Wilde's plays comes from pricking at the inflated egos, pious humbug and ignorance of the upper classes. There is always a Wildean character to reverse a clicheed expression or invert conventional 'wisdom.' Unfortunately, by stripping most of his characters of their stiff formality and rigid social code, the writer and director have removed the butt of the joke and Wilde's comments on absurdity are left without a punchline. The attempt to work in anachronistic social relevance leaves us with a set of feeble characters who fall in love with each other for no obvious reason. Because Wilde's language has been sterilised the actors have to use mugging to express the personalities Wilde created. Result, a charmless and dated 'political' drama as credible as a Jeffery Archer novel. Gertrude is insecure and fretful where she should be smug and priggish- Mabel is arch where she should be caustic- Poor Oscar - gets no 'Oscar'!
I saw "An Ideal Husband" at the Old Vic theater in London, and was surprised
at the time how timely a 100 year old play could be.
When I saw the trailers, TV ads and posters for this version, it seemed like an entirely different story--will Rupert Everett get married off. That's certainly a thread in the movie, but in the marketing of this version, they made it appear as if it was the entire wardrobe.
I didn't see the film when it was in theaters because these ads, with their very modern music and fast cutting, made the film look like a joke.
But when it came out on video, I decided to try it, and am glad I did.
The film itself is excellent. Beautifully shot and paced, with an expert cast. Wilde's humor shines through, and the writer-director has done a wonderful job "opening" up the play into a film, without changing anything important. It's a masterful job of translating from stage to screen. It's really so crisply done, and very funny.
In years to come people will realise that this is a fine movie version of this play. And by then, hopefully, they will have either forgotten about the marketing campaign, or hopefully learned from it.
I recommend the film.
This is a wonderful movie! It is fast-paced, funny, moving in parts, entertaining. Rupert Everett and Minnie Driver play their parts to perfection, and so do all the remaining actors. Costumes, music, photography, everything was excellent! I've not yet read the original play, so I cannot judge how close it is to it, but it is certainly very close to Wilde's spirit. Hilarious!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is lovely. It is lovely if you are into acting: the men involved superbly set a foundation for the two women Cate and Julianne who are among our greatest living actors. These women duel but not in the uninteresting way by butting heads. (For egregious examples of this see how Denzel works.) Instead, what they do is create ever high levels of annotation on the situation, each at a higher level of abstraction than before, all the while keeping the plate spinning form the prior effort. This is not a profound vehicle by any means, but it is profound acting.
This project is also lovely if you love language. Wilde knew how to form the most succinct quips, much better than Shaw, his only competition. Most of this is framed as dialog that flies back and forth almost too fast. Wilde is where Capra found his notion of screwball, so in a sense almost everything we see on screen is influenced by Wilde's few plays.
This project is also lovely if you are into self-reference as the basis of art, that kind of art that defines how we advance our ability to abstract, especially how to abstract cool soft stuff like love. Here, we have Wilde writing about the dangers of the written word; how one committed, words constrain every element of everything that follows. The best we can do in life (he seems to say) is to just begin writing it and adapt to the consequences. (We have a key scene with our friends attending a play, another Wilde one. We have another key scene with Northam `performing.')
A fine man. An ideal author.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 4: Worth watching.
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