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1 item from 1998

Film review:'Wilde'

1 May 1998 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Despite fine performances by Stephen Fry and Jude Law, "Wilde" is a disappointingly predictable and uninvolving film portrait of Victorian wit and writer Oscar Wilde, who was imprisoned for being homosexual.

The Sony Pictures Classics limited release is a tony entry in the presummer sweepstakes, but it lacks a compelling point of view and resorts to hoary melodramatics, and the dialogue is often painfully earnest. An initial flurry of boxoffice interest, buoyed by admiring reviews, will not last long.

"Wilde" opens with the long-haired, flamboyant dresser Oscar (Fry) lecturing miners in Colorado, circa 1882. On his return to England, he woos and weds the beautiful Constance (Jennifer Ehle) and appears ready to settle down into a literary career.

Enter Robert Ross (Michael Sheen), a house guest who seduces Oscar and starts scandalmongers talking. With his Irish mother (Vanessa Redgrave) on his side, Oscar leads a double life -- devoted husband and covert homosexual -- while his career successes make him a celebrity.

At the premiere of his play "Lady Windermere's Fan", Oscar meets and instantly falls for handsome young sonnet writer Lord Alfred Douglas Law), causing Ross much pain. But nothing rivals the vicious reaction of Douglas' homophobic father, the Marquess of Queensberry (Tom Wilkinson), who eventually brings about Oscar's downfall and imprisonment in 1895.

While one learns a little about the man (he read prodigiously at a fast rate and had a poet's precise memory), there's not enough spontaneity to many of the exchanges. Most of the time, Oscar comes off as a walking omnibus of classical quotations, as if he's always playing to an audience, while supporting characters talk about him with the measured insight of an undergraduate lecture on the subject.

At the center of it all, Fry is a dignified, comfy presence, but he's often upstaged by Law playing the spoiled, showoff Douglas with sizzling charisma. Sheen registers strongly in his scenes, and Wilkinson is suitably menacing as the heavy.

Director Brian Gilbert ("Tom & Viv") and crew have mounted a handsome widescreen production on a limited budget, with locations including London's Athenaeum Club, Somerset House and Oxford Prison.


Sony Pictures Classics

Dove International presents

a Samuelson production

Director: Brian Gilbert

Producers: Marc Samuelson, Peter Samuelson

Screenwriter: Julian Mitchell

Executive producers: Michiyo Yoshizaki,

Michael Viner, Deborah Raffin,

Alex Graham, Alan Howden

Director of photography: Martin Fuhrer

Production designer: Maria Djurkovic

Editor: Michael Bradsell

Costume designer: Nic Ede

Music: Debbie Wiseman

Casting: Sarah Bird



Oscar Wilde: Stephen Fry

Lord Alfred Douglas: Jude Law

Lady Speranza Wilde: Vanessa Redgrave

Constance Wilde: Jennifer Ehle

Robert Ross: Michael Sheen

Marquess of Queensberry:Tom Wilkinson

Running time -- 117 minutes

MPAA rating: R


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