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The Importance of Being Earnest is a 2002 film directed by Oliver Parker, based on Oscar Wilde's classic comedy of manners play The Importance of Being Earnest. The original music score is composed by Charlie Mole. The movie grossed about 8.3 million dollars.


The plot revolves around two men in Edwardian Englandmarker, John (Jack) Worthing and Algernon (Algy) Moncrieff. Whenever Jack travels to Londonmarker from his Hertfordshiremarker estate he says he is going to see his (fictitious) wayward brother Ernest. Once in London he keeps his privacy by calling himself Ernest. This tactic is especially important as his beloved, Gwendolen, declares that she could only love a man named Ernest. Her cousin, Algy, is the one person who knows Jack's secret and one day he travels down to the estate, announcing himself to Jack's attractive ward Cecily as the infamous Ernest. Cecily is enamoured with him and his name, and upon Jack's return home and Gwendolen's unexpected arrival it becomes clear there are both too many and too few Ernests earnestly courting.

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.


Production notes

  • 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 Oliver Parker thought Firth's stunned reaction was so humorous he decided to leave it in.
  • The business with 'Earnest'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 pounds to use West Wycombe Parkmarker as Jack's home in the country.


  • In the Wilde play, Jack was Algernon's older brother, but in the film, this was reversed such that Algernon was already old enough to watch his brother being put in the handbag (Algernon says his father died when he was only three, but in the flashbacks, Algernon was clearly 6 or 7 at the time when Jack was born). Even though Jack is not the oldest brother, Lady Bracknell says he was christened after his father General Moncrieff. But while in the General is conveniently named 'Earnest' in the play, it turns out to be 'John' in the film.


  1. Films of 2002, by total gross

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