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4 reviews, 29 user ratings

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Ideal Husband, An
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by iF Magazine

"IDEAL HUSBAND is close to an ideal adaptation."
4 stars

If Oscar Wilde were alive today, one's inclination would be to congratulate him on the wit, sexiness, charm and thoroughly modern sensibilities of the new film of his play AN IDEAL HUSBAND. Never mind that the piece is set and was originally written over 100 years ago -- there's little that will strike present-day audiences as dated, stilted or less than intriguing.

It's hard to quickly summarize the plot of HUSBAND -- its myriad narrative convolutions are part of its appeal -- but here's the set-up. Lord Arthur Goring (Rupert Everett), never serious if he can help it, is thrust into the role of referee, confidante and reluctant knight in shining armor. His best friend, politician Sir Robert Chiltern (Jeremy Northam), is being blackmailed over a long-ago legal indiscretion by Mrs. Laura Chevely (Julianne Moore). Chevely was once engaged to Arthur and a disliked schoolmate of Sir Robert's beloved wife Gertrude (Cate Blanchett), who worships her husband as a saint. Robert begs Arthur for help - just as Gertrude herself does. Arthur, trying to do the right thing by both Robert and Gertrude, winds up in the center of an increasingly tangled web of half-truths and misunderstandings, where people do the right thing for the wrong reasons and vice-versa. In all the commotion, Arthur may fail to notice that Robert's flippant younger sister Mabel (Minnie Driver) has taken a distinct interest in him.

Adaptations of Wilde -- like any other period pieces -- have been known to be stiff as boards, but director/screenwriter Oliver Parker (who previously performed the same functions on the Laurence Fishburne/Kenneth Branagh starrer OTHELLO) knows his way around the material. Conflicts between image and appearance, short-term desire and long-term commitment are issues that anyone can identify with when properly presented, and Parker is more than up to the task. He sympathizes with everyone in the piece - even its hypocrites and certainly its putative villainess - letting us laugh because we like these people and relate to whoever is in keenest distress at the moment, rather than because any of the characters appear foolish. In this version, when Mrs. Chevely says of her acquaintance Lady Markby (Lindsay Duncan) that "she talks more and says less than any woman I know," Duncan's interpretation slyly shows us that Markby is deliberately stirring the pot while keeping her own secrets hidden, rather than blithely babbling.

The actors are excellent, each one at home with Wilde's impressively intelligent and very funny dialogue. Everett has been perfecting Arthur's sardonic, self-pleased but impulsively huge-hearted persona for years. It's easy to envision Guy Bennett, the adolescent future spy Everett portrayed in 1984's ANOTHER COUNTRY, growing up to be Lord Goring had he shed a bit of angst along the way. Blanchett is luminous as the overly principled, starry-eyed Gertrude, making her passions so palpable that we find we can forgive her narrow-mindedness. Northam's Robert is an all-too-plausible mixture of sweaty guilt, desperation, unthinking smugness and flashes of disconcerting allure.

Moore as the sophisticated, ever-amiable Mrs. Chevely provides almost too much fun; there is nothing that her character doesn't find delightful and fascinating (especially when it involves the discomfort of others). She and Everett play off one another with joyous, knowing dexterity; the characters and actors both seem to have each other's measure. Driver makes some daring choices with Mabel, using mannerisms that at first seem over the top until we notice that she only employs them with Everett's Arthur and winds up looking canny and appealing: What better way to flirt with a self-loving man than to mirror his affectations? John Woodvine as Arthur's perplexed, disapproving father is a hoot.

Parker demonstrates his confidence in the action by allowing his camera to remain still unless there's a good reason to move it. For one thing, the frames are so filled with brilliant colors and varied shapes in a great depth of field that we need the time simply to take in what's in front of us. This also lets us focus on the script and performances rather than unnecessarily tarting up the proceedings with technical flash for its own sake.

Parker is right to believe he's made something that's worthy of our attention. His IDEAL HUSBAND is close to an ideal adaptation. -- Abbie Bernstein - iF Magazine (http://ifmagazine.ifctv.com)

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=1582&reviewer=119
originally posted: 06/29/99 03:07:34
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User Comments

7/28/09 the dork knight A lot funnier than most period films (Everett is in almost every scene, that helps) 5 stars
6/18/06 chienne Hopefully a revival of Wilde, wonderful, uppercrust Poms at their snobby best 4 stars
9/23/03 JC Wilde isn't rolling in his grave, but this adaptation probably wouldn't make him happy. 5 stars
9/01/03 Valerie I absolutly adored the move, its the kind to watch when you want a silly romance. 5 stars
4/17/03 Shadaan Felfeli Very British, Very Nice. 4 stars
8/26/02 Christopher Wonderful script and acting. Great cast. 4 stars
6/08/02 Teresa Worth seeing if you like English period flicks like I do. 4 stars
3/31/02 Marcia Lartz Generally good cast wasted in this bore. 2 stars
1/01/02 Paco Not as good as expected, Rupert Everett is wonderful 3 stars
3/14/01 Richard Wright Sorta good, with fine acting and a witty script full of twists. Not much else to say... 4 stars
12/25/99 elfpunkt not too shabby.. 4 stars
11/29/99 Mic Wilde is excellent. Is he going to get a film revival like Shakespeare? 4 stars
11/15/99 gnomical any director that loves oscar wilde's work the way i do has my vote. 4 stars
11/12/99 hai le what is the most ethical major isue of this movie 4 stars
10/19/99 Trish Clever, funny 5 stars
10/12/99 Duck Pretty good 3 stars
10/04/99 Joel Harwood Funny Funny Funny Oscar Oscar Oscar 5 stars
7/30/99 Cage Not as bad as I had expected. Just average. 3 stars
7/26/99 Suzanne Intelligent AND funny - what a rare combination. 5 stars
7/22/99 Suzz a lot of fun. Enjoyed it. 4 stars
7/20/99 Heather To love this movie is the start of a lifelong relationship with dry, witty period pieces 5 stars
7/09/99 Sally Clever, wonderfully dry humor. Rich cast. 5 stars
7/06/99 Brian M charming old fashioned humor, how refreshing & Rupert Rulez! 4 stars
7/02/99 Costars Elegant, fun & charming with one casting mistake 4 stars
6/30/99 Lisa witty, funny, Cate and Rupert are excellent in this wonderfully adapted Wilde play 5 stars
6/30/99 nobody yawn 1 stars
6/29/99 fkondor OK if you like to watch the boom mike bobbing above the actors' heads constantly 3 stars
6/28/99 Malbert It was cute-Rupert Everett&Julianne Moore were great 4 stars
6/18/99 Mr Showbiz Lightweight and clumsy, it gets by on the spirited performance of Cate Blanchett. 3 stars
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  18-Jun-1999 (PG-13)


  14-Oct-1999 (M)

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