Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. United Kingdom/Germany/Japan, 1997. Samuelson Productions, Dove International, NDF International, Pony Canyon, Pandora Films, Capitol Films, BBC Films, The Greenlight Fund. Screenplay by Julian Mitchell, based on the book by Richard Ellmann. Cinematography by Martin Fuhrer. Produced by Marc Samuelson, Peter Samuelson. Music by Debbie Wiseman. Production Design by Maria Djurkovic. Costume Design by Nic Ede. Film Editing by Michael Bradsell. Golden Globe Awards 1997.
According to director Brian Gilbert, Oscar Wilde never had a normal moment in his life–everything he says or does in this film is always perfectly spoken, perfectly lit and moved about at the pace of an oil painting. While the graphic sexuality and forthright attitude of the characters involved makes for the most progressive view of Wilde seen or read yet, the movie’s slow tempo and melodramatic mood don’t do much to inspire you. Stephen Fry is dull and annoying in the lead, while Jude Law‘s performance as Wilde’s longtime lover Lord Alfred Douglas (“Bosie”) is a little overdone but much more effective. The best performances come from Jennifer Ehle as Wilde’s long-suffering wife (though the script has her saying trite and overwritten dialogue as if she never in her marriage once asked her husband if he wanted a cup of tea) and Vanessa Redgrave‘s too few moments as his dotty mother. Gilbert films underworld gay life in Victorian society like he was remaking Interview With The Vampire, and he never really tells us why this old dude who looks like Edith Evans borrowing Karen Carpenter’s hair can literally charm the pants off these hot young guys (I don’t care how successful his writing is); and speaking of hot young guys, there’s a wonderful little performance from a then little-known actor named Ioan Gruffudd. You’re better off watching a good adaptation of the world Wilde created (The Importance of Being Earnest, for example) rather than a boring recreation of the one he inhabited.