|The 2002 film version of Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest is well worth seeing. All of the actors are very good, most especially Colin Firth as Jack, Rupert Everett as Algernon, and Judi Dench as Lady Bracknell. Oscar Wilde’s dialogue is so superb that it is interesting to see different actors try their hand at it.
The 1952 film version, directed by Anthony Asquith, was, in my opinion, much better, and this new film will not displace the 1952 film as the definitive film of the play. The 1952 film was in effect a filming of a stage play with very few changes in script or in setting of the scenes. The actors in 1952 delivered their lines in declamatory fashion as one would on stage in a theatre, a way of speaking well suited to Wilde’s memorable lines. Joan Greenwood as Gwendolen in 1952 had a star quality that Frances O’Connor in 2002, a very competent actress, lacks. Judi Dench as Lady Bracknell in 2002, though very good, also does not make quite the same strong impression as Edith Evans in 1952. Equally unmatched is the 1952 film's Miss Prism, Margaret Rutherford.
The director in 2002 also saw fit to add outdoor scenes and other scene changes, that in my opinion added nothing to the interest of the film. I’ve seen movies before, of course, and I know that movies can have outside scenes and show people in balloons and automobiles, but so what? I don’t watch a movie for such things. Most of the interest of The Importance of Being Earnest lies in the dialogue. The 2002 film has a few slow, slightly boring moments, which the 1952 film with its faster pace never had.