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There's not a single thing inherently wrong about adapting old stories
in new and surprising ways. Unfortunately the writers removed all of
the original class and gender subtext in the original story and then
added naked ladies. Really that's all there is to this adaptation. Some
unusually bland acting goes with the bland writing. I have a feeling
the actors knew the movie wasn't going well, took the paycheck, and
just went a long for the ride.
I have to express some discontent that some others say this adaptation does justice to Wilde's story. I just don't see that at all sorry. This is "lowest common denominator" kinds of movie making. The good news is that this is the sort of movie that disappears in a heartbeat after a quick release to DVD.
The Picture of Dorian Gray, as penned by the Irish wit Oscar Wilde
(1854 - 1900), is a tale of high-brow debauchery and limitless
pleasures of body and soul and the corruption, by one Lord Henry
Wotton, of the young, handsome and soon to be narcissistic 19th century
rock 'n roll hell-raiser Dorian Gray.
Ealing Studios have translated Wilde's controversial novel into a celluloid den of iniquity that somehow comes across as rather shallow. Like the characters seen here too; it seems that as a work of symbolic gesture of how the upper classes conduct their sordid lifestyle of hypocrisy, deceit and lust it lacks any deep and thoughtful intrigue that any good 19th century Gothic horror story should be.
To fully understand the ethics of a Victorian London that Oscar Wilde has so wonderfully reflected with his novel here, we see, too, with this latest interpretation using, as Wilde may have done, the picture purely as a metaphorical means. Yes, we see the selling of souls here and the lamb to the slaughter and the hedonistic teachings of Lord Wotton, but toward the end, the whole sordid affair becomes predictable.
Penned with an undercurrent of realism and too fantasy of the love of sin. It's a dark, dirty, dingy setting of a self-indulgent Victorian London that we are lead to believe is prim and proper on the surface but lurking just below this weak, temperate society lies pure greed, greed for experience, experience that will transcend the mind, body and soul to the wondrous dealings of what life has to offer. For, as always, a price, a price both Oscar Wilde and Dorian Gray would pay the highest sacrifice.
It is with a taint of sorrow that this latest performance too has paid a price too high, sensationalism over content, ironies aside, the film seems too concerned to show the sordid details of this lifestyle and its inhabitants'. It lingers on too far in the bedrooms of London and strays too far from the mental anguish that may have been. We see the trouble mind of our young (looking) man but we see not enough of his fears, regrets, sorrows and repentance, which are cast aside and squandered. Welcome to the 21st century Mr. Wilde.
By the time the chimes of time are echoing in the distance we have Dorian fading into the far reaches of the eternal abyss of the afterlife. With all the time in the world we are still wanting more to feed our palates, it's all to aesthetically pleasing, but at the same time oh so unrewarding, a taster we are given but the full flavour we are, regrettably, spared.
This too may have its target audience and in so having picked its target out it may have trouble standing the test of time, due to its lack of wit, lack of diversity and a lack of daring and commitment of its original source. It is a sad loss that such a literary work of historical meaning and wealth should have been robbed of its qualities.
When I first heard about the Picture of Dorian Gray becoming a movie I
was excited and overjoyed. I thought with this new technology the 21st
century has, The Picture of Dorian Gray will receive the justice it
deserves. However, I was very wrong. I just finished watching the movie
and I felt compelled to write a review about it.The movie was horrible.
A grand disappointment which had such potential to be great. Firstly,
the movie should have claimed to be inspired by the novel not based on
it. I say this because the movie was very different from the novel. All
of Oscar Wilde's wit and beauty which truly made the novel classic was
ruined and overshadowed by the changes the movie made. I understand
that there can be biased when reading a novel before seeing the movie
adaption, but this movie adaption was appalling. I wont give anything
away but the movie seriously ruined Oscar Wilde's vision and above all
his memorable characters. Once the movie changed aspects in the novel
the whole thing became horrible. Trust me, you'll agree if you've read
the novel first.
Ben Barnes is simply gorgeous but he hardly brought any character development. I never felt pity for him throughout the movie compared to the novel. The novel brought the characters to life and described the reality of London life. The movie made the classic novel very shallow. I must add that as much as I love Colin Firth he was not convincing as Lord Henry. The character was someone who was vindictive and unchanging. He drained Dorian and was never affected by the consequences of his own evil; Colin Firth failed at reincarnating the abhorred character. Whats worse is that the whole ending is changed, which ruins the whole message of the novel. In the end, Oscar Wilde's masterpiece remains legendary in its pages as opposed to its film adaption. Seriously, I think my rate of 4 is being to generous.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It is inevitable that when any classic novel (Oscar Wilde's being no
exception) is adapted for the screen, certain liberties will be taken
to make it an engaging story to an audience present for 2 1/2 hours. In
this 21st century execution, Oliver Parker includes an interesting
theme certainly real in Wilde's Victorian era and widely discussed on
the social AND artistic scene today: the failure of paternal figures.
The longing for an admirable father figure serving as Dorian's ultimate
Achilles' heel is a fascinating theory to draw from. It could've
certainly presented itself as a unique theme to distinguish the film
from Albert Lewin's 1945 version.
Unfortunately, this is all completely drowned in gaudy pornographic material (not dissimilar to the undoing of "Caligula"), overdone special effects, and terrible performances.
Ben Barnes is arguably a very promising actor who could've effectively played the role within a few years of performative maturity and growth. In this film, the lack of the aforementioned makes his acting painful to watch. At this stage, he simply lacks the severity and command of the famous character's evil to be believable. Barnes is weakly tossed from scene to scene and presents very little to persuade the viewer.
The most appalling performance comes from Rachel Hurd-Wood as Sybil Vane. It is perplexing as to why a more mature, capable actress couldn't be chosen to play the role instead. Hurd-Wood, probably due to lack of experience and performative maturity, is simply incapable of convincing anyone watching that it is a winsome, naive theater girl we're seeing. One of the first rules of acting is to live and be the role, NOT anticipate from line to line (which she does obnoxiously every moment she's on-screen) Mercifully, she's only present for 15 minutes of the film, but it's enough to be among the greatest of the film's flaws.
Not even the remarkable Colin Firth can save this travesty of a film, as his Henry Wotton fails to emit convincing sinisterness that his mere words will corrupt the young Dorian. When he illogically changes his tune in the film's final 15 minutes, it only leaves awkward confusion and embarrassment. Understandably, this could mostly be the fault of the director drowning character study in favor of saccharine visuals, yet Firth is certainly capable of doing better even when his characters have limited screen time.
Granted, a film discussing the theme of self-indulgent hedonism will depict occasional free love, just enough to get the point across as to what the central character is up to. Pornography running at the rate of every other scene, however, is too much. Parker has made the mistake assuming that this is necessary to appeal to a 21st century audience, figuring the vast majority lack the intelligence to have understood long ago that this is among Dorian's long list of vices. A few scenes of the character smoking opium in a burlesque was already serving this purpose. The theme then plunges into the annoying with unnecessary (and terribly performed) scenes of mid-ball rendevouxs and orgies that smack of pathetic attempts at convincing eroticism.
Another item to note: Wilde's novel was notably controversial during its time for its homeoerotic overtones. In this more tolerant age, the visual beauty of male characters and settings is enough to represent this very theme Wilde presented. The addition of an absurd snog between two characters (which not only strays from the plot's logic but also glaringly from the relationship dynamics depicted in the novel) once again betrays Parker's belief that audiences are too stupid to gather the homeoerotic elements already present.
A portrait that moans and emits maggots like a hungover zombie might frighten those who've been spared years of horror movie parodies. In watching this film, the scenes with the ever changing picture provide an embarrassing orientation to this, enough to have Wilde spinning in his grave. No sooner are syrupy pornographic scenes temporarily not on-screen than the film is dragged down again by overdone special effects that have been the undoing of many, many movies in recent years. A director of Parker's caliber should've been aware of this long ago. Thus, there is absolutely no excuse for this to be present in a film that is intended to carry a theme deeper than late 90's movie era eye-candy.
There are no words to describe how utterly ridiculous, even border-line laughable, the ending to this film is. In brief, it competes with the over-the-top, embarrassing ends of various characters depicted in "Van Helsing". Once again, visually (already mentioned as ruining this film). If Parker was attempting to end this picture with a bang distinguishable from previous versions, he renders it a complete joke.
There is certainly pornography available that costs less than the price of a movie ticket. Corny special effects 101 can even be obtained for free in many places. That said, anyone interested in this rendition of Wilde's work should save his money.
Oliver Parker has directed some exceptional films. This one, disappointingly, is greatly under par having resorted to cliché special effects reminiscent of cheap horror flicks and squanders artistic talent.
What a shame.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
i have to admit, i had my doubts about this movie at first. After
reading the odd couple of reviews, i wasn't entirely sure if this film
was for me. i am not a fan of horror and, like quite a few people i
suspect, was put off slightly by the "horror" classification that most
reviews seemed to mention. However, as it turns out, it is not like
your conventional thriller.
i have never read the book, and so i cannot compare it to the film, but the story was extremely enjoyable. A young man who trades his soul to the devil in exchange for eternal youth and beauty, after seeing an incredibly lifelike portrait of himself, does not seem entirely unrealistic given todays cult of appearance-obsessed celebrity youth, and in fact most of the film stuck to the realms of reality. Set against a beautiful Victorian style backdrop of London, the film managed to mirror life through a visually delightful time period that managed to modernise itself in its content, and maintained a nice contrast between light and dark throughout.
I was also throughly impressed with the casting. Ben Barnes was the perfect choice for Dorian Gray himself, managing the conversion between the innocent young man, to the seductive charmer, to the fear-possessed psychopath effortlessly. Add that to the fact that he is breathtakingly perfect, and even as an audience you begin to be drawn into his youth and extreme beauty. Colin Firth was unlike anything i've ever seen him in before, much in contrast with his cheery "mamma mia" role, as he played Dorian's enticer, lord henry. Harsh and often sexist, he very much had a "frankensteins creator" character, desperately striving to corrupt Dorian's innocent nature. Ben Chaplain was also good as the creator of Dorian's special portrait, Basil. And then of course there were Dorian's two main love interests, Rachel Hurd-Wood and Rebecca Hall, both of their characters bringing contrasting characters to Dorian's affections.
As for the content of the film, it had what i believe most good films should contain - a shock. And it certainly shocked. It opens with a scene which you are certainly not expecting, but succeeds in capturing your interest for sure. It then falls into a kind of lull as we meet the innocent and gorgeous Ben Barnes, but then hypes up again as we are introduced to rude and obnoxious Colin firth. The film continues in this fashion for the majority of the time, with a few unexpected shocks along the way as Dorian begins his soul destructing spiral. There is obvious sexual content but it is certainly not excessive, and plenty of mild drug and alcohol abuse too, although again the film does not go overboard with these. Also, there is a reasonable amount of gore, although not enough to spoil your enjoyment of the film, and these moments are also fairly obvious and so the squeamish (including myself) can simply close their eyes during these short scenes. The only other thing to mention is the horror which occurs at the end of the film when Dorian's painting reveals his mutilated soul. I personally didn't watch this bit and would certainly recommend to those who don't enjoy being scared to not watch it either, as it is apparently rather intense, but again, it is also fairly obvious of when it will occur.
Dorian Gray is a fabulous, fast paced drama-thriller that provokes thought into our own "celebrity" lifestyle and the pressures we put on appearance, as well as a visual description of the price of eternal beauty on the soul. I would definitely recommend this film - it is truly picture perfect.
I attended the World Premiere of "Dorian Gray" at the 2009 Toronto
International Film Festival. Starring Colin Firth and Ben Barnes, this
newest adaptation of Oscar Wilde's classic Gothic horror story was
directed by Oliver Parker from a Toby Finlay script. Set in Victorian
England, Gray (Barnes) and his mentor Lord Henry Wotton (Firth) embark
on an adventure that will lead them down paths they could never have
imagined. I'll leave it at that for those unfamiliar with the story.
"Dorian Gray" is definitely a crowd pleaser. Ben Barnes is on screen almost every second from opening to closing credits and is frighteningly brilliant as the titular character. Together, Barnes and Firth carry the film.
As a period piece, art and set direction are unsurpassed. Roger Pratt's cinematography flawlessly places the viewer into the hazy London setting and the costumes are stunning. Capturing both the deplorable conditions of the urban poor as well as the debauchery of the moneyed class is critical and perfectly executed here.
Parker's take on the story is dark and surreal, placing slightly more emphasis on the real than imagined. Today's technical abilities allow the images to be more explicit than in the previous black and white version of the story, so visual and special effects are dramatic and effective.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The end of this story is like a perfect diamond that completes a
beautifully crafted ring and the producers of this film replaced it
with a cheap zircon.
It was to be expected I suppose, books are never transferred well on screen, yet that is as infuriating as when Fran Walsh diddled with the character of Faramir for whatever selfish reasons. Sadly, the movie started so well, which doesn't justify that choppy conclusion.
Colin Firth's character 'Henry' was absolutely let down in the end. He was NOT supposed to be remorseful, certainly not for the sake of a daughter that did not exist and frankly, it's about time the myth that some gormless, gap toothed, opinionated girlie is the answer to a corrupt man's redemption, provided that man is appealing. Even at a strain, I do not see how her presence suddenly blotted out a lifetime in Dorian's memory, bringing the overwhelming need to become 'good' again. Dorian Gray never chose to repent, his portrait certainly didn't CG itself out of the frame and nobody set it on fire.
Just to set the record straight, the whole purpose of this story is to show the unrepentant, forever handsome youth, who's only concern is the existence of proof of what he's done, the destruction of it being the all too human fallacious belief that if something is out of sight, well, you guessed. He chose to stab the portrait and was then FOUND dead, a disfigured, revolting old man before a splendid portrait. A magnificent end the movie robbed us from, all for the sake of having a magic, purifying GIRL.
I wonder if Oscar Wilde would have been as incensed by the ending of one of his best works as I was but since he can't protest, perhaps the voice of one of the fans of his work and particularly this novel, will do. It is unfortunate that, like the portrait in the story, the movie begins marvelously and yet by the time it concludes, one wants to take a blade at it, in the vain hope that the original story may be redeemed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I hardly know where to start describing just how bad this movie is.
First I will say that the movie, especially the first half, feels
terribly choppy and rushed. The relationship between Dorian and Sybil,
for example, from initial meeting to marriage proposal, to break-up and
suicide is covered in the space of TWELVE MINUTES. This is including
the scenes in between in which she is not involved. The director
probably could've put a montage of them running through tall grass and
painting each other with paint rollers while giggling merrily and it
would've done a better job of establishing this relationship in
I feel like the director just wanted to get it out of the way so that he could spend as much time on the lurid details of Dorian's life as possible.
Director: What? I have to provide an explanation? OK here goes...
Dorian: hi I'm Dorian want to get married?
Sybil: yeah sure
**2 days later**
Sybil: you slept with a whore! I'm going to kill myself!
Director: OK now that that boring storyline garbage is out of the way I can get to the S&M sex montages, murders, and a painting that actually GROWLS AND HISSES.
Which brings me to my next problem with the movie; the cheesiness and unbelievably heavy-handed symbolism. The first time that we actually see a heavily altered version of the painting hidden up in the attic, the camera zooms in on the painting and yes, it actually hisses at the audience. I feel that this is a massive cop-out on an attempt to create a frightening and tense atmosphere. It is as if the director was unable to use lighting, shot framing, scenery, etc. effectively to create the atmosphere which he desired, and decided instead to have a ghost pop up on screen and yell "BOO!" at the audience to startle them into a state of fright.
The symbolism is something I would expect to see from a first year film student. The montage of S&M sex scenes inter-spliced with scenes of Dorian spreading jam on a biscuit made me burst out laughing. Possibly the most obtuse symbolism I've ever seen in a movie takes place when Dorian seduces Hallward at his party while some kind of sexually charged African drum dance involving a large snake takes place downstairs. That's right, snakes look kind of like a penis, and they're representative of sin! BAM! Double the symbolism! I was so convinced in the final scene where Lord Henry speaks to the painting that it was going to blink or start crying, I'm sure someone talked the director out of that one. I wouldn't even have been surprised to see a caption saying "Dorian is in the painting" with an arrow pointing to it.
A great deal of Oscar Wilde's sharp wit is cut from the story, and what does remain I would call the most redeeming factor of the whole movie. There are still a small handful of wonderful Wilde quotes that will have you laughing and thinking, but you can save yourself the trouble of viewing this travesty.
I've been puzzled by the negative reviews i've seen for this as i really enjoyed it. It looks superb, with some excellent atmospheric Victorian locations. Ben Barnes is perfect as Dorian, good looking but not bland & still sympathetic throughout the film. The character of Emily which has been invented for the film works very well, and Colin Firth is magnificent in his pivotal role. Dorians gradual deprivation is well shown without heading off into exploitation and he is given real depth. His tragedy is very obvious.I must admit to not having read the original book as yet, but I do intend to now. I really enjoyed it but for its full benefit I recommend seeing it at the cinema.
Interesting how many reviewers who enjoyed this movie NEVER read the book. Please- take the 2 hrs to read it instead of watching this typical 21st century sell-out. Other than the scenery, there was nothing particularly enjoyable about this. Not all movie-goers (esp me who is female) care to see gratuitous sex and body parts. It is insulting to my intelligence that they think I can't grasp the story unless I'm fed visuals like a first-grader. Like one reviewer said, Wilde would be turning in his grave. Another example of directors trying to make a quick buck by trashing a classic. A wasted opportunity. Why Colin? Why?!?
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