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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
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
I don't think I have ever seen a worse ensemble cast. I have seen many
a high school play with better acting. All the most basic mistakes are
made. It should only be shown to young aspiring actors as a training
video in what not to do. Students: note the grossly ineffective vocal
inflections, the myopic combinations of fake-English-lord and
California slurring, the twitching rather than walking, the
gesticulating wildly while raising shoulders and rocking back and forth
and jerking the head. Note with what genius the actor begins in the
high register and marches upward every higher toward what someone in
rehearsal must have underlined as the key word. Ahhh and the key word
turns out to always be an adjective and always "but-no-cigar" close to
a word Oscar surely worried over a bit more.
Clearly the whole budget was spent on hiring the locations and nothing was left over to hire any talent to stand in front of them...
Horror is definitely the right genre for this picture but I doubt it was the horror that the Director intended.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What a shame! i can't believe i have watched it till the end! Basil a woman? it just spoiled everything. how about "the love that dare not speak its name", "such love as Michael Angelo had known, and Montaigne, and Winckelmann, and Shakespeare himself"? how can the director justify himself about the secrecy hidden in the picture that Basil does not want to reveal at first, and HIS confession to Dorian later? If basil is a woman, what's the necessary of putting these in the film any more? And divided the work into "influence", "sin", "redemption", etc? It just cut Wilde's masterpiece and his thoughts into pieces, and ruin the intricacy of the original work. The director just imposed his interpretation of the novel upon us, which unfortunately, I can hardly agree. What's more, he ruined all the characters, Basil, Dorian (what's the use of the bed scene with Sybil? and the wedding of Basil and Henry, by the way?) and Henry finally. Why replacing Campbell, who disposed Basil's body, with Henry?! Henry is supposed to be a spectator, staying unmoved in this story. It's far too away from his cynical aphorism, which seems as one of the only things left in this version worth watching. Forgive me for being so angry at this film. I just cannot stand Oscar Wilde's masterpiece being ruined like that. I know everyone has a different understanding at this work, but i really don't think it would be what the writer himself wanted to reveal or rather conceal. I wish I hadn't watched it. Yet, fortunately, Wilde himself does not have to!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film leads to a lot of questions . Looking at the message board on
this page several people are asking when this film was released while
people who've actually seen THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY are now asking
why it was released . I'm actually a combination of the two . I'm
wondering why it was produced and when it is set . Apparently the story
starts with Dorian's grandfather coming home from a hard days work
building atomic bombs and then killing his daughter . I'm just sort of
curious where abouts in the Victorian world there was an atomic weapons
project . Worse still in a fit of angst and guilt it was this led to
Dorian's grandfather killing himself and his daughter " Who'd have
thought that the smallest thing in creation would kill the most number
of people " Hmmmm well since the film ignores any sense of time and
setting I think it's only fair neutrinos are smaller than atoms whilst
firearms have killed far more people than atomic bombs . So have
machetes in fact . If you're going to play hard and loose with science
and history you're leaving yourself open to all sorts of counterattacks
As bad as the obvious and anrachronisms are such as atomic bombs and modern day cars and clothing that keep appearing from scene to scene it's probably the acting and dialogue that makes the film so irritating . . Some people have complained that Basil has become female but it wouldn't be nearly as bad if Rainer Judd had
1 ) A decent line
2 ) Gave the impression that she might have attended an acting class
Both the dialogue and the performances are dire from all the cast . Hands up anyone who' had a conversation similar to this ?
" A realism that is vulgar "
" But it's the lack of realism that is vulgar "
" Passion embraces your lips with its hideous fire "
I'm not exactly reminded of Oscar Wilde with these lines or indeed William Goldman or Robert Towne . More like someone who thinks they're being clever by writing the most stilted lines possible . In fact I'd call it " The dialogue that dare not speak its lines "
A cinematic story with an eponymous character is often carried by the lead and unfortunately Josh Duhamel doesn't carry it off very well . He comes across as a good natured Guy Pearce appearing at some provincial theater rather than a haunted character from a Victorian novel . The most unlucky cast member though is Ms Judd who hasn't made any more movies since this one . It'd be difficult to believe she got offered worse scripts than this one
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
HORRIBLE movie! Bad actors, fancy cars in the Victorian age, and a pathetic need to remove the homosexuality from the story are just some of the things that makes this an awful screen version of an amazing book. The fact that they have changed Basil Hallward into a woman is ridiculous! I found that the movie was straight forward homophobic, and I felt appalled by it. Why shoot a movie when you do not like the story? This seems weird to me. At some point I actually wondered whether or not they had casted such bad actors to ruin the real story of the book. It seemed to me that they had completely lost the point; Dorian Gray is almost never independent in the book, but in the movie he suddenly feels like taking control and arrange a party right after the death of his former love. Which brings me to the scene where he dumps her, which might be the worst piece of acting ever seen. Non of the two seems like they even know what they are talking about and a tragic love story suddenly becomes quite amusing, in a rather painful way to everyone who actually likes The Picture of Dorian Gray. Further more it seems stupid that the movie begins with a strange story about a nuclear bomb, when that hadn't even been invented yet at Dorian Gray's time. Simply just a horrible version of a really great story!
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Obviously this film is not intended to be a realistic rendering of
Wilde's text, too often talked about by those who have never seriously
read it. Nor does this film even intend to bear comparison with one
classic and several abysmal "more faithful" interpretations. If Jarman
were being credited with this film, reviewers would labor far more
carefully to make some artistic and spiritual justification for the
choices. It seems fashionable to bash this film, while tolerating and
even praising far shallower interpretations. I have seen them all.
So, what is this variation attempting to accomplish. It takes a true innocent of breathtaking beauty, and shows that such innocence is constitutionally unable to defend or heal itself. It is a Beauty every human so envies and hates, that uncontrollable malice arises in each person to destroy and ruin the Beauty of Innocence. Every character in the piece carves, distorts, spoils and overpaints the original innocence of Man with doubts, fears, questions, and most of all judgments, until Dorian Gray becomes a collection of wounds, scars, defacements and ugliness which have literally driven out the innocence, life and Beauty, leaving only a corrupted husk. The theme is Man's "fall from innocence," universal ingratitude, and unmitigable envy. The core of this variation on Dorian Gray can be found in one line uttered by literature's most evil character, Iago: "He hath a daily beauty in his life/That makes me ugly."
I think Josh Duhamel's Dorian is simply beautiful in its simplicity and transparency. This young actor is more generous and less vain in his own physical beauty than any other interpreter of the role. He "gives" that beauty to you, the viewer, without any withholding or judgment of your worthiness to receive his radiance. He IS innocence and beauty, therefore he IS simplicity, wonder, and total vulnerability. Not since Terrence Stamp debuted as Billy Budd has innocent beauty been so unfailingly personated.
is only acceptable piece of this movie. a beautiful Dorian who must be script, story, acting. like a statue of Antinous. but any Hadrian is present. an exercise to amusing. torture for poor Wilde and a story without sense.but the joy of new adaptation of a novel who may be easy transform in childish game. the game with mirrors is interesting only for gamer. problem is novel. profound, delicate, clever, it is not minced or ball for dogs. and its ideas are spider webs not place for strange experiments. so,Josh Duhamel is only precious chair in a dusty room.and this may be a great sin in this case. because Dorian is far by this small film.
Man, all I am saying is that, wooden line readings/self-aware poses by
the couch/misunderstandings of the material/general lack of facial
expressions aside, that Branden Waugh is one handsome dude. When are we
going to see more of him, am I right?
To address another issue, it seems pretty obvious to me that the story takes place beginning around the time of the first nuclear weapons (late thirties/early forties) and then skips ahead to sometime in the seventies, as evidenced by some sexy disco and wide lapels. Also this would account for the non-immortal, non-devil-painting-having characters having gray hair.
As for Basil being a woman, I believe Wilde intended to maker her a woman in the first place but then maybe he forgot? I'm not sure. But he made Basil a painter. And come on, folks, guys don't paint.
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