An Ideal Husband
Official Miramax Site
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Minnie Driver, Rupert Everett, Julianne Moore, Jeremy Northam
Category: Romantic Comedy
Oscar Wilde's play "An Ideal Husband" was intended for the stage, but it's found a cozy home on-screen. Set in 1895 London, this movie deserves at least one Oscar nomination for wardrobe (despite a bizarre abundance of green ;-), if not a host of others. Wilde wrote about many things, such as falling in love and staying there, doing what's proper, and self-sacrifice. But An Ideal Husband is mostly about words; how words mislaid can lead to trouble and how, with proper timing, words might also save.
Everett (My Best Friend's Wedding) plays Lord Arthur Goring, a wastrel aristocrat who's managed quite nicely to elude the ball and chain. Despite his insistence that he knows "everything" about "nothing," Lord Goring binds the other players together as neatly as any book cover and contains just as much substance. Everett's delivery of Wilde's language is nearly staccato in its sharpness, requiring attention and maybe a second viewing.
Sir Robert Chiltern (played by Northam, The Net, Mimic, Emma, Gloria) is both Lord Goring's friend and the title character. He's a man with a past, or rather he's a man despite his past. Northam is as capable as ever, a chameleon in his varied roles, imbuing Sir Robert with the reserved passion only the English can pull off convincingly. The similarity between Northam's ambitious politician and his modern day counterparts is telling about both eras.
Then come the women. Sir Robert's wife Lady Gertrude is played by Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth). Lady Gertrude lives in an ivory tower and seems to worship only one thing over and above her husband - his honor. Blanchett gives a performance that is painful to watch at times for all its honesty.
Minnie Driver plays Sir Robert's younger sister Mabel. Never having had the opportunity to see another film with Driver is a situation that should - and will - be remedied (Circle of Friends, Good Will Hunting). She has an amazingly expressive face. It's almost out of control, as in the scene with Lord Goring where he leaves as she arrives, but Driver manages to stay just this side of too much.
Mrs. Cheveley is played by American Julianne Moore (Nine Months, Cookie's Fortune). This is the first period piece for Moore, who looked to be at home in both costume and accent. Mrs. Cheveley is the "bad guy" in An Ideal Husband, the catalyst for the clever mischief so lacking in most of today's productions.
The only thing wrong with this movie is having to pay to see it the second time. Listen carefully, both Driver and Everett have the most caustic of lines that aren't-to-be-missed. Here's to the next Wilde endeavor - may he enjoy as much late success as has Miss Austen!
Copyright 1999 by Kathe