'The Importance of Being Earnest'

Ernest isn’t so earnest, as it turns out, in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest.’

BOONE — If it’s not sassy, witty, cheeky and a little bit conceited, then it’s not an Oscar Wilde play.

Although “The Importance of Being Earnest” wasn’t necessarily my favorite work by Wilde (“The Picture of Dorian Gray” takes the cake on that one), its vintage movie adaption certainly does the original justice.

“The Importance of Being Earnest” (1952) hails from a time when movie adaptions of plays and books followed very closely, if not word for word, to the literature they were based on.

It hasn’t been all that long since I was in college reading this play, and I found that the movie resembled the play quite perfectly.

And perhaps my attention span while watching movies has dwindled, but I found it easier to follow the play on paper than on screen. Regardless, the viewer should recognize the witty humor of the film quite easily without having read the play first.

“The Importance of Being Earnest” follows two gentlemen who both use the same pseudonym, Ernest, to pursue separate love interests.

Jack Worthing (Michael Redgrave) invents a brother Ernest to leave the countryside to visit his dear Gwendolyn (Joan Greenwood). At the same time, Algernon Moncrieff (Michael Denison) convinces Worthing’s beautiful ward Cecily (Dorothy Tutin) that he is Worthing’s brother Ernest.

Since Worthing convinces Gwendolyn that his name is Ernest, and since Moncrieff convinces Cecily that his name is Ernest, the two women believe they are engaged to the same man. From here, hijinks ensue — and Wilde uses this miscommunication in conjunction with witty wordplay to turn the situation from awkward to hilarious.

In the end, the importance doesn’t lie within being earnest at all — in fact, sincerity matters little to the characters. What’s more important is that you are actually named Ernest.

“The Importance of Being Earnest” will screen at the Watauga County Public Library as a part of the Third Thursday film club from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. April 21. Admission is free and the screening is open to the public.

This film has an MPAA rating of Unrated and an approximate run-time of 95 minutes.

It’s also worthy to note that the original play by Oscar Wilde is available to read for free on Project Gutenburg’s website, www.gutenburg.org.

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