movie coverI'd rather be watching TV![IMDB link] [Netflix link]

PLOT SUMMARY: A man becomes immor[t]al, via a magical painting that changes over time, while he does not.

UNCOMFORTABLE PLOT SUMMARY (inspired by this): [highlight for spoilers] Hedonism: You burn in the end, but it’s still totally worth it.

PEOPLE: Directed by Oliver Parker (St. Trinian’s 1-3, The Importance Of Being Earnest). Lord Henry Wotton, the corruptor [intentional misspelling!] of this film, is played by Colin Firth (Geoffrey Thwaites from the new St. Trinian’s movies, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Shakespeare In Love). Dorian Gray is played by Ben Barnes (Prince Caspian from the recent Prince Caspain movie, young Dunstan from Stardust). Also with Emilia Fox (The Pianist), Rebecca Hall.

QUIRKS: Based on Oscar Wilde’s book. Technically a remake, since The Picture Of Dorian Gray has been adapted to film before (in 1913, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1945, 1970, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1978, 2001, 2004, and 2005). I had no clue this has been done OVER AND OVER so many times. I have no clue which one I grew up on, but it was one of the old black & white ones, the type of movie that American Movie Classics or TBS would play. Anyway, here is an IMDB post listing how the various adaptations have changed the story. It’s a response to haters hatin’.

UPDATE! After I wrote this review, my mom chimed in: “You watched the 1945 version w/ the great George Sanders as the witty-as-acid Lord Henry.  The Hayes code prevented any of the hedonism to be shown, so it’s only implied–but there’s a real creepiness to Dorian’s underbelly.  I still love this movie.  Btw, it IS in black and white, but the painting is filmed in color!”

VISUALS: The painting itself was kind of lame with the bugs & worms and such; they could have maybe done better with that, and shown it more. It was still more polished and high-budget than the painting I saw in the black & white version — that just looked increasingly haggard and aged… But I don’t know that it was better per se. Just more expensive to produce.

SOUNDTRACK: Classical – this movie takes place in the old days. Like 1800s-ish.

MORALS: Yes, this movie is full of morals. Basically, that you shouldn’t follow them. You should be completely hedonistic and amoral (not necessarily immoral). Of course, the ultimate fate of Dorian Gray is one of judgment and retribution, which kind of ruins the story for me. I’ve always understood that is the point, and I’ve always liked the descent into hedonism far more than the “karma” received for that hedonism.

BAD STUFF: Trains don’t approach silently! C’mon! That’s so retarded.

CONCLUSION: I think I might have been expecting more, but it’s probably that I simply didn’t remember the original very well, and amplified my expectations through nostalgia-colored glasses. The ending seemed to come so suddenly. That bugged me. I didn’t realize it was approaching. Bad pacing, or my own fault? I don’t know. The whole story seemed a bit preachier than I remember–I liked the first half of decadence and hedonism more than the second half of morality-driven regret. I suppose the message may be lost on one like myself, who doesn’t believe in final judgment, traditional morals, or an afterlife. I did enjoy the gentlemanly subtlety. It added a nice flavor to the absolute hedonism. Definitely glad I checked this out.

RATINGS:
Clint: Netflix: 3/5 stars. IMDB: 7.2/10 (slightly better than the average 7).
Carolyn: Netflix: 4/5 stars. IMDB: 7.6/10 (a low 8).

The native public rating for this movie is: IMDB: 6.4/10, Netflix: 3.5/5 stars (Netflix‘s predicted rating for us was 3.1/5 stars–pretty damn accurate!).

RECOMMENDATION: If you’re familiar with the story, you should definitely check it out. If not, maybe you should watch it so you are familiar with the story. Oscar Wilde wrote some good stories (or so I hear)!

MOVIE QUOTES:

Lord Henry Wotton: [dismissively] ‘Conscience.’ It’s just a polite word for ‘cowardice.’ No civilized man regrets a pleasure.

Lord Henry Wotton: People die of common sense, Dorian, one lost moment at a time. Life is a moment. There is no hereafter. So make it burn always with the hardest flame.

Lord Henry Wotton: There’s no shame in pleasure. Man just wants to be happy. But society wants him to be good. And when he’s good, he’s rarely happy. But when he’s happy, he’s always good.

MOM’S REVIEW: We watched it last night and I didn’t like it at all.  I guess what surprised me most was how slow it was.  The ’45 version didn’t have any explicit scenes of Dorian’s debauchery (his behavior was just hinted at) but it actually seemed more creepy and moved along at a faster pace.  Also, Dorian’s transformation–from innocent boy to hedonistic monster–didn’t seem so abrupt.  I was also disappointed in Colin Firth as Lord Henry.  Firth SEEMS like a good choice for the character, but they made him too much of an out-and-out “devil.”  In the book (and in the earlier film), he’s just “mildly” evil (ha ha), a sort of witty, caustic, morally vacuous figure whose influence isn’t quite so hands-on.  It was subtler and, again, more creepy.  As for the picture, I was disappointed in that too.  In spite of the CGI, it didn’t seem dissipated ENOUGH.  Almost anticlimatic.  I’m not saying the ’45 version is definitive–obviously, it was held back by the code and concluded a silly religious “redemption” ending –but it was more atmospheric and (to me) chilling.  Maybe the definitive version  is yet to come.

Mood: moodlessness
Music: Torsten Rasch – Seemann