Whilst we still have large leaps to make in LGBT rights, there was a time in our own country where homosexuality was an crime. Many men were persecuted for their sexuality and sent away to prison as though it were immoral. Last year The Queen pardoned a lot of these “crimes” yet it doesn’t seem enough. Good men committed suicide or were persecuted for no reason at all, and we must do more to make it right.
One of those men was famed writer, Oscar Wilde.
In a movie about his later life, Rupert Everett takes charge as director, writer and lead, in Oscar Wilde biopic The Happy Prince . The film revolves around acclaimed author Wilde, during a tempestuous time of his life. After being imprisioned for two years, for falling in love with another man, Wilde is exiled to the South of France where he is kept on a small budget by his estranged wife. Having been abandoned by most of his peers since his arrest, Wilde lives day by day begging for alcohol and affection. He is not completely alone, as his literary agent Robbie Ross and old friend Reggie Turner try to keep him from spiralling out of control. Battered by a turning public and longing after his love Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas, the author finds himself walking a dark and mysterious past.
Everett’s work is a lush and complex portrait of an author condemned for merely loving someone. This lucid film works as a dream and skims through Wilde’s imagination and memories. Bringing in the bright sunlight, Everett romps around France and Italy, with a keenness to capture the beauty of it all. With high poignancy, the actor turned director accomplishes a brilliant study of fame fallen apart and a desperate artist clinging to the prettiness of the world around him. Moments ebb with pain, delusion, and honesty in a wonderfully impressive film.
The triple threat of actor, director and writer works well enough here to produce a good standard of biopic filmmaking. Everett is able to command great highs and even graver lows, as someone who is forced into this isolation, stripped of the lavish and decadent world that he had gotten used too. In the dying days of Wilde, Everett plays a morose poet clinging onto the stars he gleams at from the gutter below. It’s an accomplished performance and truly one of Everett’s best. That being said, I’d rather wish he hadn’t. The garish make-up that adds pounds to Everett makes his character look puppet-y, like a melted wax model of an haggard Wilde. Though he plays each role well (director, writer and actor) he should have at least let one go, in order for the rest to work. And what he should’ve let go is playing Wilde. With a fat-suit and grimace, it’s hard to see anything but plastic jowls and stuffed trousers. It feels as though Everett – so eager and keen to get this story told – would’ve worked best guiding another actor to brilliance. It keeps The Happy Prince a couple of steps behind.
There’s enough in Oscar’s story to keep you invested. There’s also great turns by an unrecognisable Colin Morgan as Wilde’s fervent fop Bosie and an endearing performance by Edwin Thomas as the steadfast Robbie Ross. It never makes for truly remarkable filmmaking and is somewhat safe in it’s portrayal, Everett has done enough in his directorial debut.
The Happy Prince is out in cinemas now!