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29 August 2002 Edition

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Wilde for an Oscar?

The Importance of being Earnest
Cert: General
Release: 6 September
Starring: Rubert Everett, Colin Firth, Frances O'Connor, Reese Witherspoon, Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson
Director: Oliver Parker

The importance of being Earnest is a comedy of errors with a sterling cast and impressive direction. The film, based on the novel of the same name by Oscar Wilde, displays much of the great wit that the author is renowned for.

The film revolves around Jack Worthing (Firth) and Algy Moncrieff (Everett), and their attempts at winning the girls of their dreams. Jack lives in a stately country mansion with his ward Cecily Cardew (Witherspoon), granddaughter of the man who adopted him, and Algy lives in the city, where he is besieged by debt collectors as a result of his extravagant lifestyle.

Jack creates a wayward 'brother' named Earnest, who he is forced to visit regularly in town to sort out his affairs. The trips to town are in fact a chance for Jack to escape his stiflingly sober existence in the countryside, and visit his friend Algy's cousin Gwendolyn (O'Connor). Once in town, Jack assumes the identity of Earnest. Gwendolyn, the object of his affections is a headstrong, rebellious aristocrat, with a flair for the dramatic, who accepts Jack's proposal because she believes she is destined to marry a man named Earnest.

At the same time, Algy decides to escape his debtors by visiting his friend's country mansion to see his ward Cecily, and to do so , he adopts Earnest's identity. There he falls in love with Cecily, who accepts his proposal because she feels that she is destined to marry her guardian's brother, Earnest.

Are you keeping up with all this so far? Anyway, the fun begins when all four suitors end up in the country mansion, and the two girls believe that they are both engaged to the same 'Earnest'.

The comedy is added to by the entrance of Gwendolyn's mother, Lady Bracknell (Dench), who is opposed to her daughter marrying Jack/Earnest, and is worried about the choice her beloved nephew has made.

Their are some minor storylines running throughout, such as Cecily's tutor, Miss Prism's love for the Reverend Chasuble (Wilkinson) and the existence of a sickly friend called Bunbury, who Algy creates to allow him to escape to the country any time he wishes to escape from anything unpleasant.

The confusion and chaos make for hilarious viewing, as does the quick-witted performances of its stars. The film has a modern edge to it, but as the director himself says, the script is 96% Wilde. Similar to Gosforth Park for acting talent and direction, this is even funnier. The only fault that can possibly be pointed out is Wilde's simple interpretation of women and their desires (marrying a man because his name is Earnest?), but the strong female character of Lady Bracknell portrayed by Judi Dench just about makes up for this.

Although the viewer may be at first worried by the appearance of American actress Reese Witherspoon as an English rose, doubts are soon put to rest by her perfect accent and easy adaptation of a period style look.

The Importance of being Earnest is an enjoyable, entertaining film, which should appeal to a wide audience. Definitely worth a watch.


No sleep for Al

Cert: General
Release: 30 August
Starring: Al Pacino, Hilary Swank, Robin Williams
Director: Christopher Nolan

As most of his fans already know, Al Pacino is rarely in a bad film. Ok, Devil's Advocate and Any Given Sunday weren't the showstoppers that Scarface, Heat, or Scent Of A Woman were, but they were still quality movies. His latest effort, Insomnia, we are happy to report, is a classic and marks a return to top form for Pacino.

Set in Alaska, the home of the midnight sun, the film has all the edginess of a Christopher Nolan directed film. If you've seen his last film, Memento, you'll understand this, if you haven't, pay a visit to your nearest video shop to get it.

Insomnia is essentially a murder story with a twist. Will Dormer (Pacino) and his partner Hap (Martin Donovan) are sent to the icy state from Los Angeles to investigate the beating to death of a 17- year-old girl. Local cops, among them Ellie Burr (Swank), are awed to have Dormer on the case, as he has an impressive success rate in previous investigations. However, Dormer and Hap are being interrogated by Internal Affairs and their minds aren't entirely on the job.

The problems start when, whilst chasing the potential murder suspect on a foggy beach, Dormer shoots his partner dead. He thinks it was an accident, but as his partner was being tapped for evidence against him by Internal Affairs, he realises how it might look, so he blames the suspect for the shooting.

Running parallel to this is Dormer's inability to sleep, due to the perpetual light in his hotel room. His insomnia starts to have an effect on his judgement and he begins to see flashes, often of his dead partner.

As the mystery surrounding the young local girl's death begins to unfold, local cop Ellie starts to suspect that Dormer may have shot his partner. Meanwhile, Dormer is being dragged into a cat and mouse game with the murderer, Walter Finch (Williams), who saw the shooting of Hap on the beach. Williams, more renowned for his comedy roles, is superb as an unnerving killer who doesn't feel that he is to blame for the young girl's death.

The film has a suitably disturbing atmosphere. Dormer can't sleep, and yet when he walks the empty daylit streets at 3am in the morning, it's as though he is dreaming.

The climax at the end is spectacular, as is the direction throughout. The story is focused on the awakening of only three characters, and yet is never boring.

Alaska provides a strangely beautiful setting. Insomnia is a welcome change from the usual summer blockbuster, and an absolute must for Pacino fans.


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