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The Picture of Dorian Gray (2005)

 -  Drama | Horror  -  1 December 1999 (USA)
4.6
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Ratings: 4.6/10 from 401 users  
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Title: The Picture of Dorian Gray (2005)

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Basil Ward
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1 December 1999 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

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

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Version of The Seven Deadly Sins: Gluttony (2001) See more »

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Above average movie version of a classic book
25 March 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

In some ways it must be an insurmountable task to adapt any book, let alone a classic, to a moving picture. Certainly seems the case with other failed film attempts of Dorian Gray including Colin Firth's (yes the Oscar winner has a bad film) most recent version. But there's something oddly moving on an intellectual level to this Josh Duhamel version. It is certainly not without it's faults and limitations, but there's touch of Wilde that so many have lack.

I am a high school teacher currently teaching this book so my analysis is based less on Hollywood criticisms (like acting) and more on the overall message I believe the filmmakers were trying to articulate. For example, the most controversial change that this director, David Rosenbaum, made was casting Basil a straight woman, not a homosexual male. To be offended by that is to not understand Oscar Wilde or Dorian Gray. For the record, I am a gay woman. Oscar Wilde repeatedly said he had not made a "gay book" or intended for "homosexuality" to have overshadowed his work (and life). Wilde himself called his book a strange love triangle between his three personalities: the side he thought others saw, the side he saw, and the side he wished those would see. He often called Basil his feminine side. So it seems perfectly fitting that, after so many failed attempts to adapt Dorian Gray into an overt gay message film (talk about raising Wilde from the dead), these filmmakers would try a more cerebral version where the artist is feminine. How does that dynamic effect artist, sitter and critic? It is also interesting that the best and most realized performance comes from the female lead, Rainer Judd.

I think the setting, which they say takes place in "the land of hypocrite" also has the wonderful flowery and natural feel of the book's language. Sure the locations of the book describe, on the surface and at first glance, stuffy London parlors, but the rhythm and tone feel like the sea and gardens photographed so beautifully in this film. And the film is right to state at the start that this is a story steeped in hypocrisy, an argument they seem willing to fight from the beginning.

There's more to discuss, both positive and negative, but maybe because there is more to discuss is what warrants a viewing of this film. I give it a 9 out of 10 not because it's a classic, but because it dares to break apart a classic in a challenging way -- Wilde would tip his hat at the bold risk regardless the outcome.


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