Monday, September 14, 2009
Darkmatters Review: Dorian Gray
Dorian Gray (15)
Dir. Oliver Parker (St Trinian’s, The Importance of Being Earnest)
Reviewed by Matt Adcock (in Luton with the man who screams at horror i.e. Matt Landsman)
ONE WORD SUMMATION: stuffmedouble
Oscar Wilde’s tale of damned souls and eternal youth is given another big screen outing thanks to Oliver ‘St Trinian’s’ Parker. It’s a relatively faithful retelling of how swoony young Dorian (Ben ‘Prince Caspian’ Barnes) trades his soul for the ultimate ‘get out of jail free’ card.
Imagine having a painting that ages and takes the physical damage for you whilst you live a life unblemished and unharmed no matter what you get up to… It’s a great dark, plot that should make for a powerful gothic horror of man’s insatiable carnal appetites but somehow this version plays it far too safe and reserved.
The best thing on offer here is Colin Firth as Lord Henry Wotton, a kind of Mr Darcy gone over to the dark side, who initially revels in leading young Dorian astray. Firth plays his role with gusto and delivers some of the best lines with aplomb – for female readers though I have to relate the sad news that at no time does he get soaked whilst wearing his trademark white shirt.
Barnes does an ok job in the title role but never really convinces as a maverick libertine, he suffers from simply being too nice. Even when seducing a society matron while her young daughter (who he’d just finished deflowering) hides underneath the bed he looks more startled teen than smooth ladies man. He never looks very comfortable during the same sex clinches he explores in his debauched lifestyle either- really, there’s no pleasing some people!?
"For Narnia!! Oh, sorry, wrong film..."
So everything ticks along agreeably and it all looks rather nice but there’s nothing here to send shivers up your spine, least of all the infamous portrait which suffers from some distinctly lackluster CGI effects. It’s like the makers are a bit worried that it might frighten the audience too much so opt for a genteel generic zombie-lite painting.
My esteemed friend Matt Landsman who I saw this with (and who normally screams like a girl at horror films) made a really good point as we discussed this one – what Dorian Gray really needs is the Tim Burton treatment. That could have made this a classic film adaptation rather than the glossy vacuous and ironically soul-less effort that Parker delivers.
So Wilde’s tale still awaits a full blooded effort but thanks to this one we’ll probably never see it…
Darkmatters final rating of: öööööö (6 – neither terrible nor excellent)
Darkmatters quick reference guide:
Action 5 (weak on the action front)
Style 7 (there's some money been thrown at the look - but not enough)
Babes 7 (Rachel Hurd-Wood is yummy)
Comedy 6 (darkly funny in parts)
Horror 6 (not really scary enough)
Spiritual Enlightenment 4 (average morality tale)