A naïve young man. A lovelorn artist. A corruptible Lord. A deal with the Devil. It all paints a dark picture of a Victorian London and how the rich and infamous party at their peril. Here, the telling of time and its consequence of experience for life's treasures' takes its toll on the body, mind and soul. The haunting and bleak tale of power, greed, vanity and inevitable self-destruction is ever present amongst the deceit, opium dens and sin. Written by
As is, The Picture of Dorian Gray is pretty much unfilmable. The 1945 version was close to doing it justice, but changes must be made whenever an adaptation is attempted. Still, when I see a new version coming out, I hope that it would bring more to the table than this sorry affair.
Oliver Parker is apparently thinking less of Oscar Wilde and more of himself with every adaptation. The very same director who did a fantastic job with very loyal and conservative adaptations of An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest, strayed this time so much from the source material that it's barely recognizable - and I mean less the plot, and more the atmosphere, the message, the smart dialog and the fascinating characters who made the original novel so compelling. Parker chose instead to focus on the horror and erotic elements of the story, making it a pretty standard Dark-Side-of-London Victorian era horror film, perhaps in a feeble attempt to cash in on the success of From Hell and Sweeney Todd - and at its worst moments, it feels almost like a Twilight follower. Though the production values are clearly pretty high - cinematography, costumes and sets are all pretty good - they're also uninspired and completely lacking in originality.
Even worse are the cardboard characters and the shallow horror-movie dialog that replace the witty and dark banter Wilde was famous for. Ben Barnes is a very weak Dorian, showing no emotion or development over the course of the movie, but it's not solely his fault; Colin Firty gives his whole to a very complex and interesting character, but it's not enough to make the dialog ring with any kind of depth.
Thanks to a solid production and a couple of good actors, Dorian Gray is watchable, but just barely; and when it's supposed to be darkest, it's the most ridiculous. A pointless adaptation of a classic piece of literature.
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