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The Importance Of Being Earnest review

Oscar Wilde's coruscating comedy of mistaken identities concerns a pair of dandyish bachelors (Rupert Everett and Colin Firth) meeting their match in a pair of spirited young women (Frances O'Connor and Reese Witherspoon). A "trivial play for serious people", it's stuffed with resolutely theatrical creations trading resolutely theatrical dialogue. The question, then, is how do you make it cinematic?

Director Oliver Parker plumps for a similar approach to the one he adopted on his last Wilde stab, An Ideal Husband, staying faithful to the original dialogue while "opening out" the material. Which essentially means introducing a glut of handsome exteriors.

The legendary comic exchanges remain intact but the various nips and tucks only subtract, not add. The additions, meanwhile - some amorous fantasies, a visit to a tattoo parlour and a jazz serenade - only distract from the wordplay.

To make one so-so Wilde adaptation smacks of misfortune, to make two of carelessness.

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