Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
United Kingdom/USA, 1999. Arts Council of England, Canal+, Fragile Films, Icon Entertainment International, Icon Productions, Miramax, Pathé Pictures International. Screenplay by Oliver Parker, based on the play by Oscar Wilde. Cinematography by David Johnson. Produced by Bruce Davey, Uri Fruchtmann, Barnaby Thompson. Music by Charlie Mole. Production Design by Michael Howells. Costume Design by Caroline Harris. Film Editing by Guy Bensley. Golden Globe Awards 1999. National Board of Review Awards 1999.
A cast that is obviously having a great time is the real reason to watch this sumptuous adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s popular play. Oliver Smith’s screenplay, which opens up the original and tries to give it more breathing room, doesn’t always succeed, but the proceedings have so much vitality and class that you can’t help but enjoy yourself when watching it. Rupert Everett is a thirtysomething bachelor who avoids the attentions of young Minnie Driver because he’s enjoying single life too much. His best friend Jeremy Northam is happily married to Cate Blanchett in a relationship that involves simultaneous worship on both their parts. In comes conniving Julianne Moore (a devilishly fun performance if ever she gave one) who blackmails Northam with a previous indiscretion in order to force him to use his government powers in favour of a canal investment scheme she has sunk most of her money into. Should Northam accept the offer and avoid a scandal? Will his marriage hold strong if he turns out not to be the ideal his wife holds him up to be? Let’s pay attention to Rupert and Minnie while we find out! Transition between storylines isn’t comfortable enough, but the period settings and plush costumes are too fantastic to let this take a real hit for any critical reasons. Everett is fabulously debonair, and John Wood as his father couldn’t be funnier.