Jack Worthing (Colin Firth) has a secret. On the one hand he enjoys a quiet, respectable life in the country, where he is guardian to the extremely pretty (and fabulously wealthy) Cecily Cardew (Reese Witherspoon). But when he needs to spice things up, Jack escapes to London, where he assumes the guise of the wayward Ernest Worthing, an imaginary brother. Ernest is a rake with an appetite for extravagant living, qualities he shares with his close friend Algy Moncrieff (Rupert Everett). The purpose of Jack’s latest jaunt, though, is to propose to Algy’s cousin, Gwendolen (Frances O’Connor). Gwendolen is convinced her destiny is to marry a man called Ernest and, unaware of Jack’s real identity, readily accepts his offer. Gwendolen’s mother, however, the formidable Lady Bracknell (Dame Judi Dench), has other plans for her daughter. On interrogating Jack over his social credentials, she discovers the truth – that he was found as a baby in a handbag at Victoria Station – and refuses her consent. Now Jack must rid himself of Ernest and find some evidence of his ancestry if he is ever to wed Gwendolen. Algy, meanwhile, has taken advantage of his friend’s preoccupied state and decided to visit the lovely Cecily. When he introduces himself as Ernest, he is delighted to discover that Cecily has long harboured her own fantasies of marriage to the errant brother. It’s love at first sight and they agree to wed at once. But when Jack returns to the country with news of his brother’s death, things start to go seriously wrong. Add to this a couple of debt collectors who intend to escort Algy to prison, a truant Gwendolen and a furious Lady Bracknell and it’s clear the pair have some serious explaining to do. But waiting round the corner is a surprise – that affects each and every one of them, and which will reveal, once and for all, the Importance of Being Earnest.