More Earnest On TV

I set my DVR to record the 2002 version of The Importance of Being Earnest that was shown on the “We” channel mid-morning yesterday. I watched about 20 minutes of it last night just to see how it differs from the play we are doing and the 1952 version. What I did see did not make me hopeful for the rest of the movie. The story is set in the 1890s, but this version seems to allow the actors to portray the actions and emotions that someone in the present time would have.

In this version, Jack and Algy first meet in what could be described as a Dance Hall. The whole “cigarette case” dialogue takes place in this same setting with a bunch of women of less than honorable character laughing at the description of why he “… is Earnest in town and Jack in the country.” It would have been scandalous for men their character to be seen in place like that at that time in history. In Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, the title character is criticized for just such action.

At Algy’s place, when Earnest is about to propose to Gwendolyn, she is kissing him all over the face. People in high society would not have acted that way in public 50 years ago much less over a hundred. Some of the reviews of this movie allude to a flashback of Lady Bracknell in her younger days as a dancing girl and a scene where Gwendolyn is having Earnest’s name tattooed on her behind.

I’m sure that the average movie-watching troglodyte would have been bored by traditional versions and values of this story. I understand the need to spice it up a little to appeal to modern audiences but from what I saw they went too far. I think that if you want to see a movie version of this story that is closer to the original, you should pick up the 1952 version instead.

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