Rummanah Aasi
  I thought I might change things up a little bit to kick off Monday's posting with doing a movie review. I haven't done one in quite a while. Last night I watched BBC's 2009 film adaptation of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray called simply Dorian Gray. The Picture of Dorian Gray was my first introduction to the brilliance of Oscar Wilde. I first read the book in junior high and still remember it well to this day. When my good friend, Jules told me of a recent adaptation of the novel starring Colin Firth, I knew I had to watch it soon. Unfortunately, the movie is rather disappointing.

I'll let the movie trailer provide you with a description in case you have not read the book:

Review: I was very curious how a modern-day director would interpret the widely read and known story, especially since the book mainly is composed of complex relationships and character driven. Needless to say, I tried to push away any preconceived negative notions about the movie when I saw it.
  The movie has a promising beginning as it focuses on the introduction of our three main characters: Dorian (Ben Barnes), Basil (Ben Chaplin) and Lord Henry (Colin Firth). However, after the famous portrait is created and fawned over by many, the movie gradually deteriorates and becomes more of Dangerous Liaisons rather than The Picture of Dorian Gray. The director seems to have more of an intention to define Dorian's pleasures rather than to dig into his psyche and explore his character. Although Dorian's moral corruption is key to the novel, the director shifts the corruption up to the limits of pornography as we see Dorian take part of orgies, threesomes, BDSM, and consuming opium. The first of Dorian's pleasures would have been enough and the point would have been made. Unfortunately, the director didn't think it was enough so they added about 30 to 40 minutes more, which not only dragged the movie, but almost made me want to turn it off. Not only did I find those scenes non-erotic and gross, I thought this choice quite inadequate for today's audience. We are, unfortunately, overwhelmed by having things overly sexualized as it is. The other main themes of the novel such as youth, beauty, and the role of art are hardly touched upon.
  As far as the cast, Colin Firth seems bored and at times as if he has deja vu. His character is almost identical to his role of Valmont in the same titled movie. Ben Barnes, who plays Dorian is miscast completely. His looks and beauty lean towards boyish and lanky than desirable. A more physically mature and experienced young man would have been more suitable for the role. Female performances are quite insignificant (besides being Dorian's brief conquests), the least underdeveloped throughout the story, and not given enough space to make any impression whatsoever. The general Victorian England atmosphere, sets, and costumes are created pretty well. I was very disappointed with the overall, infamous portrait. Given today's CGI abilities, the portrait was a complete letdown and comes across quite cartoonish.
  The screenplay writer had a few interesting new perspectives on the characters such as Dorian being an abused child who always yearned for attention and a place to belong. However due to the time spent on the "decadence" of his lifestyle, none of this is ever explored. As a result, this film adaptation is a failed attempt to adapt a great novel with lots of witty dialogue and homoerotic overtones. Instead of a credible adaptation, this is more like a porn movie under the disguise of a literary, period film. The only thing this film made me do is actually seek my copy of the novel and want to re-read it capture everything I had lost while watching the film. Bottom line: If you enjoyed the novel, you will be greatly disappointed. If you didn't read the novel, you might like it.    

Words of Caution: The movie is rated "R" for sexual content, drug use, and violence. I would take this rating seriously.

Rating: 2 stars (Get it from the library if you can)
5 Responses
  1. I watched this movie cause I'm madly in love with Ben Barnes. I would have to say that this is one of the worst movies I've ever seen.

  2. Vee Says:

    I actually quite liked this movie(but it's nowhere near as good as the book. Nowhere near. I think the director was trying to pick up on the homoerotic subtext in the lost uncut version of Wilde's novel, perhaps.).

    But I understand where you're coming from -- only thing I kinda disagreed with was the Ben Barnes being the wrong casting choice. I thought so too, but for different reasons (I've always imagined Dorian as kind of boyish. But more...innocent looking?).

  3. Hermana Maw Says:

    Great review. Very indepth and thoughfully presented. Thanks for saving me the time I would have lost watching it. :)

  4. @Must Love Books: I watched because it starred Colin Firth and it was one of his worst films too.

    @Vee: Ben Barnes has the innocent look down, but when I think of Dorian I picture him as the male version of Helen of Troy. Unmeasurable beauty that attracts both men and women.

    @Leisha: Thanks! Luckily, I got it from the library and didn't spend money on it.

  5. Melissa Says:

    I totally agree: it's a horrid adaption of a great book. I was most disappointed mostly because he seemed to want to turn it into a horror movie (a badly done one at that), instead of a psychological drama. Like you, I was glad I didn't actually spend money on it.

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