An Ideal Husband
An Ideal Husband – 1999 | 96 mins | Drama, Comedy | Colour
I haven’t seen such a lavish and exquisitely told Victorian era story like An Ideal Husband since Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence in 1993. An Ideal Husband has all the admirable qualities of a story and look similar to an instalment of television’s Masterpiece Theatre.
The rules of society were strict and somewhat highly hypocritical in many instances back in the days of long gowns and tuxedos for casual wear. Everyone in high society seemed upper crust and trustworthier than they are perceived today but there was still plenty of blackmail, adultery, wheeling and dealing and manipulation to be found. An Ideal Husband casts a negative light on the feisty brawl of politics involving dishonour, blackmail, the manipulation of a fortune and the will of one man to keep his dignity. The film also runs a perfect length of just over 90 minutes and this makes it appeal to those who find this type of entertainment too highly enlightened for their own tastes.
Set in England, Jeremy Northam portrays Sir Robert Chiltern. A short time before he is to give an denouncing address to the British Parliament regarding British support to form a canal through Argentina, he is approached by the underhanded Laura Cheveley (Julianne Moore) who supports the canal plan and wants Sir Robert to change his mind and support it also. Or she will blackmail him with an incriminating letter that will ruin his reputation and cause his life to come crashing down like a house of cards. Among the casualties in this house of cards is Sir Robert’s marriage to his wife Gertrude (Cate Blanchett).
The screenplay is by Oliver Parker based on a play by Oscar Wilde and the dialogue is impeccably written to showcase the tongues of dignity found in the era shown. The film is relatively simple to follow, unlike many films of its kind, which take often-needless sub plots and inject them into a story where it isn’t needed. An Ideal Husband also has the look of a Merchant-Ivory production and the sets, costumes, cinematography and music score are all to be given an “A” for effort and successful execution. Other noteworthy members of the cast are Rupert Everett, Minnie Driver and John Wood. No one seems out of place and everyone is casted perfectly and the direction and screenplay adaptation by Oliver Parker is truly an exercise in subtlety.
The mechanics of the film’s overall climax are somewhat docile in nature but are in keeping with many aspects of its own tone. This film is the type of achievement that I always argue keeps the movie industry alive because the movies always keep tradition in focus. Film is arguably the most educational medium if the right movies are selected to show us a little of the past that for the most part can pave our future. This film also draws heavily from the origins of theatre since it is based on a play and the theatre for many is the true art of dramatic presentation.
Review� Walter Frith.
Oliver Parker: Director
Richard Hewitt: Assistant Director
David Johnson: Cinematography
Paul L Tucker: Co-Producer
Nicky Kentish Barnes: Co-Producer
Caroline Harris: Costume Design
Guy Bensley: Editing
Andrea Calderwood: Executive Producer
Ralph Kamp: Executive Producer
Susan B Landau: Executive Producer
Peter King: Make-up Department
Charlie Mole: Original Music
Uri Fruchtmann: Producer
Barnaby Thompson: Producer
Bruce Davey: Producer
Michael Howells: Production Design
Oliver Parker: Script
Peter Lindsay: Sound Department
Rupert Everett: Lord Arthur Goring
Julianne Moore: Mrs Laura Cheveley
Jeremy Northam: Sir Robert Chiltern
Cate Blanchett: Lady Gertrud Chiltern
Minnie Driver: Mabel Chiltern
John Wood: Earl of Caversham
Lindsay Duncan: Lady Markby
Peter Vaughan: Phipps