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The story of Oscar Wilde, genius, poet, playwright and the First Modern Man. The self-realization of his homosexuality caused Wilde enormous torment as he juggled marriage, fatherhood and responsibility with his obsessive love for Lord Alfred Douglas, nicknamed Bosie. After legal action instigated by Bosie's father, the enraged Marquise of Queensberry, Wilde refused to flee the country and was sentenced to two years at hard labor by the courts of an intolerant Victorian society. Written by
Peter Samuelson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Earnest production with a great performance by Stephen Fry
This film biography of Oscar Wilde is a showcase for Stephen Fry. He not only looks like Wilde, he breaths life into the many passages from Wilde's writings that are woven into the screenplay. The difference between reading Wilde and experiencing Fry's performance is like reading Shakespeare and seeing Olivier perform. An evening listening to Fry read from Wilde's works would be worth paying a tidy sum to attend.
I had no idea that Wilde had married young to Constance Lloyd (Jennifer Ehle in a fine performance) and had two adorable boys by her. In an effective plot device, periodically throughout the movie Wilde reads to his sons from his children's story, "The Selfish Giant." The readings are presented in a way that cleverly integrates the storyline of the writing with the storyline of the movie, with Wilde being the selfish giant. And how many people know that Wilde wrote children's stories?
There are many examples given of Wilde's biting wit, such as, "Give a man a mask and he will tell you the truth," "The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast," and "I find that alcohol, taken in sufficient quantities, can bring about all the effects of drunkenness." Fry delivers these with perfect tone.
Of course a good part of the movie is devoted to Wilde's arrest and ultimate imprisonment for "indecent acts" with Lord Alfred Douglas (Jude Law). Wilde truly did live his life in accordance with his comment, "Where your life leads you, you must go. I defy society." As presented here, Wilde is a courageous and sensitive man who was forced into a tragedy by the strictures of a hidebound society. In current America most would judge his infractions with mild distaste at worst.
There are some disconcerting transitions, mostly in scenes with Lord Douglas. Douglas is seen to have a volatile personality. He could be needy and tender, but he could also be a first-class ass and manipulator with an explosive temper. His fits of anger seemed exaggerated and disrupted the tone of the movie. I had a similar reaction to the sex scenes in terms of disrupting the flow. Robbie's initial advances were abrupt and without foundation. The explicit sex scenes between Wilde and Lord Douglas would have been better hinted at than seen - their kisses and embraces could well be imagined but they felt incongruous and unbelievable in the flesh.
Wilde was much more than a wit. He could express emotions with eloquence. Consider this quote about encountering a previous lover after a hiatus of a few years:
"Life cheats us with shadows. We ask it for pleasure, it gives it to us with bitterness and disappointment in its train. And we find ourselves looking with dull heart of stone at the tresses of gold-flecked hair that we once had so wildly worshiped and so madly kissed."
The movie is nicely filmed with a good musical score. I wound up liking it more after having thought about it.
Watching this has expanded my appreciation for Wilde as a writer and as a person - I have been left wanting to know more about him and his work.
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