Friday, May 27, 2016

AN IDEAL HUSBAND (1999)

London 1895. Based on Oscar Wilde's play "An Ideal Husband", this 1999 adaptation is a charming comedy of manners about a member of the British parliament, Robert Chiltern (Jeremy Northam), whose perfect life is threatened by a Ms. Cheveley (Julianne Moore) when she informs him that she has a certain piece of physical evidence (a letter) proving that he came into his early fortune by selling a cabinet secret to her former lover.  She plans on going public with the letter unless...he alters his stance on a fraudulent scheme to build a canal in Argentina.  She's invested in the scheme and will make a ton of dough if the British government supports it.  Chiltern's wife (Cate Blanchett) has no idea about her husband's past illegal activity and believes that he is "an ideal husband".

Typing it out like that, it kinda seems like a serious story and I guess it is when you think about how Chiltern's entire career and vast fortune is based on an illegal act that should have landed him in prison, but...that's overthinking the story.  And besides, as Chiltern says "Is it fair, Arthur, that some act of youthful folly should be brought up against me now all of these years later?"  I mean, c'mon!  All he did was make a ton of money by selling government secrets!  Jeez.  That's just "youthful folly"!

Anyway, I'm looking way too deep into the story because the reason to watch the film is not seeing Chiltern's cows coming home to roost, but to see Rupert Everett's show-stealing performance as Chiltern's best friend and eternal bachelor Lord Arthur Goring!  Compared to Goring's witty manner and playful dialogue, the Chiltern storyline is a bore.  There's a reason that Everett's handsome mug is on all of the posters.  It's because he's far and away the best part of the movie.  I've seen AN IDEAL HUSBAND many times over the years (including three times in the theater) and it's always Everett's fantastic performance that brings me back.

Beautiful London locations (both inside and outside), delightful dialogue that is a joy to listen to, great performances by a strong cast, quick pace and a surprise appearance by Doug "Pinhead" Bradley.  Despite the negative feelings I have towards Chiltern's "youthful folly" I still like this movie and watch it once or twice a year.  Recommended.