The Importance of Being Earnest (2002 film)

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The Importance of Being Earnest
Theatrical release poster
Directed byOliver Parker
Screenplay byOliver Parker
Based onThe Importance of Being Earnest
1895 play
by Oscar Wilde
Produced byBarnaby Thompson
CinematographyTony Pierce-Roberts
Edited byGuy Bensley
Music byCharlie Mole
Distributed byMiramax Films (United States)
Miramax International (United Kingdom; through Buena Vista International)[1]
Release dates
  • 17 May 2002 (2002-05-17) (US)
  • 6 September 2002 (2002-09-06) (UK)
Running time
97 minutes
CountriesUnited Kingdom
United States
Budget$15 million
Box office$17.2 million

The Importance of Being Earnest is a 2002 romantic comedy-drama film directed by Oliver Parker, based on Oscar Wilde's classic 1895 comedy of manners of the same name. The original music score is composed by Charlie Mole. The film grossed $8.4 million in North America.[2]


In this adaptation of Oscar Wilde's play about fake 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[edit]

  • 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.[3][4]
  • 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 scene where Algernon slaps Jack on his rear end and where Algernon kisses Jack'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.


The Importance of Being Earnest grossed $8,384,929 domestically and $8,906,041 internationally for a worldwide total of $17,290,970,[5] making the film a moderate box office success based on its $15 million budget.


Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times awarded the film three out of four stars, saying the actors were well cast, and performed well.[6]

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 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."[7]

Awards and nominations[edit]

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

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


  1. ^ "The Importance of Being Earnest (2002)". BBFC. Retrieved 31 December 2023.
  2. ^ "Films of 2002".
  3. ^ "The Importance of Being Earnest", National Theatre, accessed 28 July 2013
  4. ^ ISBN 1-85998-218-2
  5. ^ The Importance of Being Earnest at Box Office Mojo
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger. The Importance of Being Earnest 24 May 2002
  7. ^ The Importance of Being Earnest at Rotten Tomatoes

External links[edit]