The Bye Bye Man
The Bye Bye Man is the kind of film that is so boring and bereft of anything of possible interest that it becomes infuriating.
Be careful what you ask for; you might get it. Two weeks ago I deplored the lack of wit in "Star Wars: Episode II--Attack of the Clones," which has not one line of quotable dialogue. Now here is "The Importance of Being Earnest," so thick with wit it plays like a reading from Bartlett's Familiar Quotations . I will demonstrate. I have here the complete text of the Oscar Wilde play, which I have downloaded from the Web. I will hit "Page Down" 20 times and quote the first complete line from the top of the screen: All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his. Now the question is, does this sort of thing appeal to you? Try these: Really, if the lower orders don't set us a good example, what on earth is the use of them? To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose both looks like carelessness. It appeals to me. I yearn for a world in which every drawing room is a stage, and we but players on it. But does anyone these days know what a drawing room is? The Universal Studios theme park has decided to abolish its characters dressed like the Marx Brothers and Laurel and Hardy, because "a majority of people no longer recognize them." I despair. How can people recognize wit who begin with only a half-measure of it? Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" is a comedy constructed out of thin air. It is not really about anything. There are two romances at the center, but no one much cares whether the lovers find happiness together. Their purpose is to make elegant farce out of mistaken identities, the class system, mannerisms, egos, rivalries, sexual warfare and verbal playfulness.
Oliver Parker's film begins with music that is a little too modern for the period, circa 1895, following the current fashion in anachronistic movie scores. It waltzes us into the story of two men who are neither one named Ernest and who both at various times claim to be. Jack Worthing (Colin Firth) calls himself Jack in the country and Ernest in town. In the country, he is the guardian of the charming Miss Cecily Cardew (Reese Witherspoon), who is the granddaughter of the elderly millionaire who adopted Jack after finding him as an infant in a handbag he was handed in error at the cloakroom in Victoria Station. When Jack grows bored with the country, he cites an imaginary younger brother named Ernest who lives in London and must be rescued from scrapes with the law.
This imaginary person makes perfect sense to Jack's friend Algernon Moncrieff (Rupert Everett), who lives in town but has a fictitious friend named Bunbury who lives in the country and whose ill health provides Algernon an excuse to get out of town. I have gone into such detail about these names and alternate identities because the entire play is constructed out of such silliness, and to explain all of it would require--well, the play.
In town Jack is much besotted by Gwendolen Fairfax (Frances O'Connor), daughter of the formidable Lady Bracknell (Judi Dench), Algernon's aunt, who is willing to consider Jack as a suitor for the girl but nonplussed to learn that he has no people--none at all--and was indeed left in a bag at the station. Thus her remark about his carelessness in losing both parents.