This movie is based on the Oscar Wilde play of the same name. Jack Worthing (Colin Firth) is a wealthy man that lives in the country. He has invented a brother, Earnest, who is a bit of a cad, which he needs to regularly visit in the city. This gives him an excuse to go to the city whenever he wants, without there being any questions about his business there. Once he gets into the city he then goes by the name Earnest and lives the wilder lifestyle of his fictional brother.
His friend Algy Moncrieff (Rupert Everett) doesn’t necessarily have any money, but he lives like he does. Which means he constantly needs to escape debt collectors. He has a scheme similar to Jack’s. He has a fictional, very sick friend, named Bunbury, that he conveniently needs to visit when he wants to get out of a social engagement.
It just so happens that Algy has a cousin named Gwendolen (Frances O’Connor) that Jack has fallen for and wants to marry. However, there are two slight problems, she has a very domineering aunt, Lady Augusta (Judi Dench), who doesn’t approve of them getting married and Gwendolen thinks Jack’s name is actually Earnest. She tells him that she has always wanted to love someone named Earnest.
Algy learns that Jack has a young ward, named Cecily (Reese Witherspoon). He becomes intrigued about her and devises a plan to meet her. Algy unexpectedly shows up at Jack’s country house pretending to be his brother (Earnest). He can get away with the charade because no one has every met Earnest.
You can probably guess that things turn crazy rather quickly. Jack is not at all happy with Algy’s charade, or the fact that he is trying to court Cecily. Plus as the story unfolds, the whole Earnest thing starts becoming confusing and causing interesting problems. This is a wonderfully funny movie with an exceptional cast. Oscar Wilde has such an incredibly witty way with dialogue, which I absolutely adore.
I especially love the scenes when Rupert and Colin are together. They have a phenomenal rapport with each other. I especially like when they are fighting, they become so childish and it is great fun to watch.
Some of my favorite quotes:
Algy – “I don’t play accurately, anyone can play accurately, but I play with wonderful expression.”
Jack – “Well it is Ernest in town and Jack in the country.”
Lady Augusta – “Well, I must say Algy, I think it is high time Mr. Bunbury made up his mind whether to live or die.”
Lady Augusta – “To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose both looks like carelessness.”
Algy – “No gentleman ever has any money.”
Jack – “How you can calmly sit there, eating muffins when we’re in this horrible trouble, I can’t make out.”
Algy – “I can hardly eat muffins in an agitated manner, can I? The butter would probably get on my cuffs.”
Gwendolen – “True. In matters of grave importance, style not sincerity is the vital thing.”
Lady Augusta – “Style largely depends on the way the chin is worn. They’re worn very high just at present.”
Lady Augusta – “London society is full of woman of the very highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years.”
Following is additional information about the movie that contains spoilers. If you don’t want to be spoiled don’t read any further.
Poor Jack, being accidentally left at the train station, in a handbag no less, when he was an infant. Not even knowing who his parents are. Lucky for him a nice (wealthy) gentleman took him in.
I love the whole bit when Jack arrives at his home in the country, wearing mourning attire, carrying an urn with his dead brother’s ashes. Only to discover his brother is there for a visit (well Algy pretending to be his brother at any rate).
You just know with all of the deceit going on, it was only a matter of time before all the characters ended up in the same place and the truth would come out. Judi is just terrific at playing stern, powerful women like Lady Augusta.