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The Picture of Dorian Gray (2005)

 -  Drama | Horror  -  1 December 1999 (USA)
4.5
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Ratings: 4.5/10 from 382 users  
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1 December 1999 (USA)  »

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Picture of Dorian Gray, the - Il ritratto del male  »

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Lavish but listless
9 November 2004 | by (Los Angeles, CA) – See all my reviews

As I see it, one important element is missing from David Rosenbaum's lavish production of the Oscar Wilde morality story and that is Oscar Wilde himself. His words are all here, the witticisms and wry comments on social manners that shocked Victorian England, but they rarely punch through the wooden acting and listless pace. It must have seemed a good idea to do a modern remake of the now classic tale of the portrait that ages while the sitter himself remains eternally young but what was perhaps less wise was to cast as principles actors who give the impression they don't fully understand the value of what they're saying.

Literary gems trip from their lips like so many throwaway lines and I kept wanting to tell them to slow down the timing and to pace themselves. In the title role, Josh Duhamel (NBC's Las Vegas) lacks, in my opinion, the experience to carry the role of a man who has sold his soul to the Devil. We are told he is festering in his own private hell but where is the fire behind his eyes, the internal destructive force driving him towards his own annihilation? Having purchased immortality, the young man embraces a life of perversion and debauchery which, for the most part, is played out off screen. Whether the reasons are economic or moral, I neither know nor care but as a member of an audience, I have to see for myself just how far he has sunken if the final climactic scene is to work for me. The cynic Harry Wotton, once splendidly portrayed by George Sanders, is a disappointment here too in the hands of Branden Waugh. Harry is an individual loath to recognize goodness in anything or anyone but Waugh doesn't exude the obligatory world weariness for all his cigarette waving and posing by the sofa. Rosenbaum took the unusual step of casting a woman, Rainer Judd, in the role of the painter, Basil Ward and it succeeds, surprisingly enough. She brings a lightness to the trio of principals which might otherwise have sunk under its own weight. The director explains on the IMDb message board the reason for this notable bit of creative casting...because it was the natural thing to do after he read that Wilde wanted Basil to represent his feminine side in what was, in effect, a love triangle between three men. I liked particularly the choice of opulent locales in Bulgaria which were beautifully photographed by Voythech Todorow. The film was viewed at the American Film Market 2004 in Santa Monica


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