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Dorian Gray (2009)

Forever Young. Forever Cursed.

Directed by:

Oliver Parker

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 112 minutes

UK Certificate: 15

Country: United Kingdom

Handsome young country boy Dorian Gray (Barnes) makes a flippant remark along of the lines of “Wouldn’t it be lovely if I was young forever?” and lo-and-behold, from that moment on, he can never grow old. Instead, a portrait of him painted by his infatuated friend, Basil (Chaplin), inherits his signs of aging and his soul. Dorian strikes up a close friendship with the cynical, unscrupulous Lord Henry Wotton (Firth) and they sink into debauched cocktail of kinky sex, drink and drugs. As Dorian commits each dirty deed, the painting mirrors his rotting soul and he then tires of the constant hedonism.

The film is based on the controversial novel by Oscar Wilde that publicised homosexuality and promiscuity to a shocked Victorian audience. The film, on the whole, is quite faithful to the book and presents a quite workmanlike, un-Hollywoodised style. The main tick in the box is that the book revolves around drug-fuelled orgies and the film adaptation certainly follows suit. Now, I’m fan of the odd sex romp in a film but how many do you need before it has comprensively illustrated the point that he likes sex? Other little chagrins being a few character additions, like Emily (Hall) and an under explored Grandson-Grandad abuse sideline. Also, probably due to budget constraints, Dorian’s twenty or so years of travels – where his soul darkens immeasurably – are skirted over in the form of a few letters to Henry, so instead the whole film takes place in a strangely minimalist CGI environment.

In terms of acting, Colin Firth – by some act of God not being in a rom-com – is excellent as the dastardly Henry and Ben Barnes is indeed very handsome, with his button chin and floppy hair (it’s no use, I have to admit it). He can act a little too. Unfortunately, Rachel Hurd-Wood is cringingly wooden in portraying Sybil – Dorian’s swiftly despatched love interest.

It's Got: Some good performances, an interesting premise

It Needs: Deeper thrills and chills, More soul

Alternatives:

Eyes Wide Shut, From Hell, Peter Pan, Peter Pan

Summary

Dorian Gray has it’s redeeming features but it all seems a bit underwhelming – more of a BBC2 period drama deemed too hot for TV.

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