|AN IDEAL HUSBAND|
Wicked Wit and Winsome Wisdom from Wilde.
Also from this issue: our review of A CIVIL ACTION
Cate Blanchett, Minnie Driver, Rupert Everett, Julianne Moore, Jeremy
DIRECTOR: Oliver Parker SCREENPLAY: Oliver Parker
CERTIFICATE: TBC DISTRIBUTOR and Picture copyright: Pathé
RUNNING TIME: 1hr 40mins OPENING DATE (UK): April 16
It's a tough task to do Oscar Wilde justice, even tougher to crack yet another period piece and have it stand out amongst the current plethora. But Parker's adaptation is a success on both counts. An Ideal Husband is belly-laugh funny and brimming with contemporary political relevance, it works as a feel-good comedy while simultaneously crediting its audience with intelligence.
Politician, upstanding pillar of London society and ecstatically married Sir Robert Chiltern (Northam), is pottering along happily until the bitchy Mrs Cheveley (Moore) crosses his path and contemplates whether to open his cupboard and out a skeleton she is aware of dangling there. Chiltern's marriage to the svelte and suffragette-minded Lady Chiltern (Blanchett) suddenly looks stormy as does his fledgling political career.
Desperate, Sir Robert turns to mutual friend and popular philanderer Lord Goring (Everett) who is galled to find himself the centre of attention - Chiltern is asking for advice, his father is hassling him into marriage and the cheeky Mrs Cheveley has a few proposals of her own. Throw into the melting pot an amorous Minnie Driver and the plight of Sir Robert becomes insignificant compared to the prospect of Lord Goring failing to retain his bachelor-hood.
Following in the spirit of Shakespeare in Love, Parker successfully allows Wilde's caustic wit and social observations to breathe and makes the naughty 1890s completely relevant to the 1990s. The magic of this film - despite the abundance of feathers, bustles and breeches - is how the characters and commentary play on our own environment, one where daily headlines uncover yet another political scandal and where lifestyle magazines constantly tell us how to live our lives.
The film ultimately succeeds by handling all these topics with a feather light touch and one which will do more than tickle your ribs. Everett is sublime as Goring (giving by far the best performance of his career), Northam and Blanchett are excellent, Moore's the best bitch of '99 and Driver - well she looks good in her dresses. An Ideal Husband does old Oscar proud and it deserves a few Oscars of its own.
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