An Ideal Husband

Directed by Oliver Parker
Starring: Rupert Everett, Julianne Moore, Jeremy Northam, Cate Blanchett, Minnie Driver.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief sensuality/nudity.

Review by Matt Heffernan
July 6, 1999

Finally, somebody in the film industry is thinking about me during the Summer. An Ideal Husband is the kind of film I usually have to wait until the late Fall to see, and by then football season has started. Instead, I have to suffer through the likes of Wild Wild West for six months. But today I get to enjoy an oasis of British charm and dry wit.

This film is based on a play by Oscar Wilde, which was filmed before by Alexander Korda in 1947. It is about Lord Arthur Goring (played here by Rupert Everett), one of the most eligible bachelors among British nobility. His friends, Sir Robert and Lady Gertrude Chiltern (Jeremy Northam and Cate Blanchett), are the Victorian equivalent of a political power-couple. Robert is a notable figure in Parliament who is going to denounce an investment scheme concerning the Suez Canal during the next session. Julianne Moore plays the widowed Laura Cheveley, who has an interest in this scheme. She tries to blackmail Robert with a letter he wrote before he joined Parliament. It contains inside information that he sold to a stockbroker for 100,000 pounds to buy his way into high society. A secret that nobody, not even Gertude, knows.

Arthur finds himself in the position of being able to help his friend by getting the letter from Laura, to whom he was once engaged, if he would marry her. Meanwhile, Arthur is courting Robert's sister, Mabel (Minnie Driver). Each character has their own political and personal agendas.

Despite the seemingly complicated plot, An Ideal Husband is actually a very clever comedy whose target moves between romance, politics, and English manners. The cast is an excellent selection of stars of independent film today. Yet, these faces are all still fresh, which is rare for a film of this type. It is exciting to see today's young actors take a chance on bringing Wilde to the screen.

Everett, especially, shows a great talent for this type of comedy. His short scenes with Peter Vaughan, who plays his butler, are priceless. But when Everett is off the screen and the plot is being serviced by the other characters, the film loses energy. Luckily, another scene between him and Vaughan is usually inserted after the slow parts to bring it back up to speed.

So please, take a break from the megaplex, and go visit the little theater down the street. You'll certainly get more for your money. And I bet they have real butter on the popcorn, too.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
An Ideal Husband (1999)

Here's some merchandise for sale at
An Ideal Husband (1999) -- VHS
An Ideal Husband (1999) -- DVD
An Ideal Husband, a play by Oscar Wilde -- Paperback
An Ideal Husband, a play by Oscar Wilde -- Audio Tape (read by Derek Jacobi and Jane Lapotaire)
An Ideal Husband: Original Music by Charlie Mole -- Compact Disc Home
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Review © 1999 Matt Heffernan