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Cate Blanchett, Jeremy Northam and Rupert Everett star in Oliver Parker's adaptation of Oscar Wilde's class-conscious comedy
Before The Importance of Being Earnest (2002), Parker adapted and directed this less well known play by the master of the barbed epigram. The source material is impeccable and a high profile cast evidently relish each loaded line and artfully executed incident.
Lord Chiltern (Northam) is a rising politician with a murky past of which his wife (Blanchett) is blissfully unaware. Blackmailed by Mrs Cheveley (Moore) Chiltern turns to London's premiere idler Lord Goring (Everett) for support, who in turn falls for feisty society girl Mabel (Driver).
It's sumptuous to look at and the plot turns with the precision of a well-oiled engine. Wilde values wit above all else so while time may have blunted the satire, the sheer intelligence dazzles. As a suave statesman Northam is on home ground, and Driver possesses an impressive repertoire of comedy facial tics. But it's Everett's languid Goring who dominates, delivering his sparkling lines with a killer mix of boredom, cynicism and scorn. ("I love talking about nothing," he says. "It's the only thing I know anything about.")
Swiftly paced and played largely for laughs this is an elegant adaptation that pays attention to the characters' emotional lives while remaining loaded with the author's prickly wit. Wilde at heart indeed.
Quality comedy with a sprinkling of romance, skilfully assembled by a director with a clear feel for the material. Performances are universally great and the dialogue, of course, is superb.
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