Ideal Husband, An [1999]

For truly clever dialogue and a smartly structured plot, you can't go wrong with Oscar Wilde. Wilde's play An Ideal Husband is not his best known, but this film adaptation has all the wit you could ask for and a cast with the chops to deliver it: Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth, Oscar and Lucinda), Julianne Moore (Short Cuts, Boogie Nights), Minnie Driver (Grosse Pointe Blank, Big Night), Jeremy Northam (The Winslow Boy, Emma), and especially Rupert Everett (My Best Friend's Wedding, A Midsummer Night's Dream), who tosses off perfect epigrams with unflappable aplomb. The plot hinges on Northam, a member of Parliament (the British governing body, not the funk band) with a skeleton in his closet who is blackmailed into a shady business deal by a lady of mystery (Moore), who turns out to be a loathed school chum of the parliamentarian's wife (Blanchett). Everything is resolved happily, but not until after some devious twists of fate, several mistaken identities, lots of comic banter, and much social skewering. Wilde, who came to ruin when his homosexuality was brought to light, has a sharp eye for hypocrisy and the artificial poses demanded by society--but political commentary never gets in the way of a smart laugh. Visually sumptuous and briskly paced, An Ideal Husband will satisfy anyone looking for social satire or romantic comedy. --Bret Fetzer

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