NEW YORK — It's summertime again, and New York City has been its usual unaccommodating self, providing enough heat to fry a thousand omelets on a thousand sidewalks. Every New Yorker who can escapes the city and goes to the country.
Trying to fit in as best I can, I have also headed off to the country. Since my budget isn't that of a Rockefeller, an Astor, or even a Paxin (People down the hall from me ... they have a place in Amagansett ... you'd like them, except for their occasionally over-friendly dog), I'm headed off to 19th-century Britain.
It is fair to assert that the latest version of Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest," in theaters this summer, is the only one in the century-long history of the work in which two of the main characters receive tattoos on their rear ends. Not that the divine Oscar, a big fan of decadence himself, would have necessarily disapproved. But it's not in the original.
What has remained, though, is the notion of "Bunburying" inventing a "sick" friend, the eponymous Bunbury, who has the most dreaded propensity to grow deathly ill at the precise time that his dear friend (played here by Rupert Everett) has an dreadfully boring social obligation, usually with his Aunt Agatha (the forbidding Judi Dench). This allows Everett to play hooky with elan, panache, even, dare I suggest, with brio.
Bunburying is the perfect summer activity. When it's too hot to do the things you have to do, invent something you'd much less rather do to ensure that you can do the things you want which, of course, is generally nothing. Wilde's heroes are creatures of the leisure class. They've got nothing to do but look pretty and sound clever. And even that's sometimes too much of a strain.
There's a reason why Hollywood puts out its boffo box office in the summer. It's not just that the kids are out of school and frazzled mothers will pay any amount of money and see anything, even movies about Elvis-playing space aliens, to get two hours of air-conditioned quiet.
It's that sometimes we go to the movies not to think, not to be elevated, but just to have a good time, and that sentiment, which can be brushed off for periods around Oscar season, is quite simply overpowering when the mercury is high. Who wants schizophrenia and biopics in July? Give us shagadelic agents and alien hunters dressed in black.
The honest truth is that there are lots of movies you "have" to see, books you "have" to read, just to remain au courant. And the number of people who have swallowed their pride and shelled out a sawbuck for something they weren't dying to see has swelled in recent years. But in the summer, it's just too hot. If the latest three-hour picture from Taiwan about two unhappy people gets you genuinely excited, then by all means, go ahead. But if not, don't get dragged there by your partner or friendsor co-worker. Go see something with Mike Myers or Chris Rock or Eddie Griffin or Vin Diesel or Will Smith or a superhero or a dragon, and tell 'em a guy named Bunbury sent you.