As I left this movie, someone said "How nice to see an intelligent movie!"
The risk going in was that it would be ONLY an intelligent - or at least clever - piece, all period manners and costumes. In fact, with all the Oscar Wilde wit which sounds wonderfully fresh here, there are also rich moments of emotional depth throughout this amusing but also quite moving film.
One theme here - touching in hindsight - is how little it can take to destroy a reputation - Wilde was later to have some of the most painful possible firsthand experience of this. But the central question here, which anchors the humor and beauty that decorate it, is the cost of rigorous, even rigid, honesty. And the growth of the central characters on this point shines through, even through the dance of wit and farce.
Underpinning this is a surprising faith in human nobility, quite in contrast to the ironic persona Wilde maintained. It struck me while watching it both that Wilde had very French characteristics - a continental finesse, the love of repartee - and yet was profoundly an English writer by virtue of his faith in fair play and the bonds of (platonic) male friendship.
In fact, Lord Goring, whose world-weary ways make him something of a surrogate for Wilde, is a distant cousin to Sidney Carton in coming to the defense of a 'nobler' friend even at great (possible) sacrifice to himself. His very lack of seriousness is what makes his efforts on behalf of his friends so moving.
With this, the pure visual beauty of actors like Cate Blanchett and Rupert Everett, matched by sumptuous costumes and sets, adds a sensuous element which, in a lesser film, might have dominated the movie. They, with Minnie Driver in cheeky comic form and Julianne Moore sweetly evil and superbly English, make it a delight both to watch and to savor later as tart food for thought.