The Importance of Being Earnest (2002 film)

The Importance of Being Earnest is a 2002 British-American romantic comedy-drama film directed by Oliver Parker, based on Oscar Wilde's classic comedy of manners The Importance of Being Earnest. The original music score is composed by Charlie Mole. The film grossed $8.4 million in North America.[1]

The Importance of Being Earnest
Theatrical release poster
Directed byOliver Parker
Produced byBarnaby Thompson
David Brown
Uri Fruchtmann
Screenplay byOliver Parker
Based onThe Importance of Being Earnest
by Oscar Wilde
StarringRupert Everett
Colin Firth
Frances O'Connor
Reese Witherspoon
Judi Dench
Music byCharlie Mole
CinematographyTony Pierce-Roberts
Edited byGuy Bensley
Distributed byMiramax Films
Release date
  • 17 May 2002 (2002-05-17) (US)
  • 6 September 2002 (2002-09-06) (UK)
Running time
97 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
United States
Budget$15 million
Box office$17,290,970


In this adaptation of Oscar Wilde's play about mistaken identities, two gentlemen in 1890s London use the same pseudonym, Ernest, for their secret courtship activities. Chaos ensues when both men find themselves face-to-face and have to explain who they really are.


Production notes

  • Dame Judi Dench portrayed Lady Bracknell for the third time, having been cast in the 1982 National Theatre revival and the 1995 BBC Radio 4 adaptation.[2][3]
  • Actress Finty Williams, who plays Lady Bracknell as a young dancer, is the daughter of Dame Judi Dench, who plays the older Lady Bracknell.
  • The scenes where Rupert Everett slaps Colin Firth on his rear end and where Everett kisses Firth's cheek were ad libbed. Director Parker thought Firth's stunned reaction was so humorous he decided to leave it in.
  • The business with 'Ernest's' bill at the Savoy, and with the money collectors coming to Jack's country home, are taken from material Wilde cut from the play prior to its publication.
  • Though cut from the revised version, the gardener Molton can be seen in the background of many scenes.
  • The producers of the film paid £50,000 to use West Wycombe Park as Jack's home in the country.


Critical reception

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times awarded the film three out of four stars, saying the actors were well cast, and performed well.[4]

On review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, as of September 2012, the film holds a 57% approval rating, with the consensus "Oliver Parker's adaptation of Oscar Wilde's classic play is breezy entertainment, helped by an impressive cast, but it also suffers from some peculiar directorial choices that ultimately dampen the film's impact."[5]

Box office performance

The Importance of Being Earnest grossed $8,384,929 domestically and $8,906,041 internationally for a worldwide total of $17,290,970,[6] making the film a moderate box office success based on its $15 million budget.

Awards and nominations

The film won the 2003 Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists's Silver Ribbon award for Best Costume Design, the movie's costumes being designed by Maurizio Millenotti.

Reese Witherspoon was nominated for a Teen Choice Award (Choice Actress – Comedy) for her performance as Cecily.


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