An Ideal Husband
Year of Release: 1999
Cast: Rupert Everett, Julianne Moore, Jeremy Northam, Cate Blanchett, Minnie Driver, John Wood, Lindsay Duncan
Director: Oliver Parker
Writer: Oliver Parker
Running Time: 98 Minutes (1 hour, 38 minutes)
Based on the play by Oscar Wilde, An Ideal Husband is a comedy which takes place in the British society of the late 1800s, a society which was very proper and polite on the surface but was filled with just as many human flaws and corruptions underneath as any other society in history. The film manages to capture some of those lies and deceits in its plotline, but for the most part it is lifeless and dull, with only the outstanding cast to make it worthwhile viewing. And the fact that the cast is so promising to begin with makes the disappointing movie even more of a letdown. Any film that features Rupert Everett, Julianne Moore, Cate Blanchett, and Minnie Driver should be outstanding; instead, it's an empty bit of fluff.
The plot of the movie involves a carefree and witty London bachelor (Everett), his rising politician friend (Jeremy Northam), the politician's doting wife (Blanchett), and a woman from their past who seeks to ensnare them all in her web of blackmail (Moore). The standout of the cast is undoubtedly Moore, as the devious extortionist who will use any means necessary to get what she wants. She is both charming and detestable, attractive yet loathsome as a human being. Blanchett is also characteristically superb as the loving wife who learns that everyone around her can't be expected to live up to her high ideals all of the time. Everett proves to be adept at the delivery of witticisms both sharp and truthful, and the most humorous moments in the film occur between him and Driver, playing the starry-eyed young maiden who wants nothing more than a marriage proposal from his character.
This is a comedy of British society in which the plot depends on coincidences, letters gone astray, misunderstandings, and deceptions which come back to haunt their originators. There is an amusing play-within-a-play scene in which the characters view a performance of Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, with a special appearance by the author himself (Michael Culkin). The acting in this film is good overall, and the costumes really stand out -- it's too bad that the plot doesn't. For a comedy, I found this one to have very few laughs indeed.