VideoVista covers rental and retail titles in all genres and movie or TV categories, with filmmaker interviews, auteur profiles, top 10 lists,
plus regular prize draws.
INDEX OF ALL REVIEWS
SEARCH THIS SITE
TOP 10 LISTS
INTERVIEWS & PROFILES
RETRO REVIEWS SECTION
ABOUT OUR CONTRIBUTORS
SUBSCRIBE TO NEWSLETTER
SUPPORT THIS SITE -
SHOP USING THESE LINKS
visit other Pigasus Press sites...
The ZONE - genre nonfiction
Soundchecks - music reviews
Rotary Action - helicopter movies
cast: Ben Barnes, Colin Firth, Rebecca Hall, Rachel Hurd Wood, and Fiona Hall
director: Oliver Parker
107 minutes (15) 2009
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Momentum DVD Region 2 retail
[released 18 January]
review by James A. Stewart
There is an undeniable bias toward books when it comes to comparing the celluloid adaptations of novels against the original written form. Some
books have had multiple interpretations, and especially the Victorian novel. This year alone we have the Boxing Day release of
Sherlock Holmes to compliment Jim Carrey's A Christmas
Carol. These things are in vogue and the latest offering is the Oliver Parker directed Dorian Gray which is loosely based upon the quite
brilliant novel The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.
Wilde was an eccentric fellow and the mood created in the gothic horror of his original novel fails to be transported to the big screen by Parker,
which comes as a bit of a surprise and a big slice of disappointment, given how well the director handled previous Wilde interpretations (The
Importance Of Being Earnest, and An Ideal Husband). I use the term 'loosely translated' deliberately as there are so many differences
between the film and the book that plagiarism would have been a hard case to uphold if the story had been used without permission.
The plot is just about familiar with young Dorian Gray (Ben Barnes) obsessed with preserving his youthful looks which he sees as major currency
in affording him the ability to live his hedonistic life for evermore. He is ably encouraged by Lord Henry Wotton who pushes and prods Gray toward
his debauched existence. Colin Firth (Love Actually, Bridget Jones' Diary) plays Wotton and does just about enough to convince that
he is not simply a poor man's Hugh Grant. The rest of the cast is aesthetically pleasing, yet, much like saccharine, a touch bittersweet.
It feels that Parker became obsessed with showing Gray's illicit lifestyle and ended up missing out on really delivering a good dark thriller.
There are copious amounts of sex scenes which only reinforce what the viewer already knows: Gray is a dirty git. Aye, we know that! - But what
about his turmoil and the devilish means to maintain his youth? Some of the scenes involving the picture's ageing smack of really lazy stereotyping.
There is no denying the film is slick and well shot. The CGI is maybe slightly over-used and the dark scenes a bit too well-lit, if you get my drift.
There is merely a hint of what could have been here as Parker jumps from scene to scene in a fast moving, yet unsatisfying film. Worst of all is
the ending. It reminded me of how Hollywood had taken liberties with the conclusion of I Am Legend. In the fantastic novel by Richard Matheson,
the realisation that the vampire hunter was in fact a monster in the eyes of the vampires is legend itself. Wilde ended his book with a rather macabre
twist. And like Matheson's masterpiece, there is no happy ending, only a realisation that the reality espoused a fake one. Of course, we can't have
non-redemptive endings in the movies, apparently.