WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHERE: Greenwich Picturehouse
WHEN: 29/5/18 (preview screening), UK release 15/6/18
RUN TIME: 1 hour and 45 minutes
Theatregoers will remember Rupert Everett’s Oscar Wilde from his marvellous Olivier Award-nominated turn in David Hare’s The Judas Kiss which transferred from Hampstead Theatre to the West End in 2013.
- Read on for reasons including surprise cameos from stars including Tom Wilkinson and Beatrice Dalle
So enamoured was he by the part of the doomed homosexual playwright that he not only stars but writes and directs here.
It differs from The Judas Kiss because Wilde is on his deathbed in exile in France and what we are shown are predominantly memories of lover Bosie (a blonde-haired Colin Morgan, quite unrecognisable from his current role in Translations at the National).
Edwin Thomas gives a sterling performance as Wilde’s best friend Robbie Ross and Colin Firth and Emily Watson are well cast in minor roles, the latter as Wilde’s long-suffering wife and mother of their 2 children, Constance.
The things that make this a stand-out by a 1st time writer/director are the poetry of the writing (at 1 point a penniless Wilde remarks that he is: ‘Dying beyond his means’ as he surveys those out for his money), the audacious and thrilling use of the French language in subtitles for prolonged periods, and the painter’s eye for detail in landscape and location.
Look hard enough and you’ll also see well-judged cameos from Joshua McGuire, Beatrice Dalle, Anna Chancellor and Tom Wilkinson, the latter especially funny as an over enthusiastic priest.
What works best is Everett’s dedication to both the part and material and the tragic nature of the literary genius to love the wrong person makes for a thoughtful and moving film. Framing Wilde’s own story with that of his Happy Prince is a neat trick to underline Wilde’s tragedy underlying the devastating wit.
The West End’s Vaudeville Theatre is three plays into a four-strong season of Wilde plays currently featuring Freddie Fox, who starred opposite Everett in The Judas Kiss, so there’s clearly an appetite for this film.
It’s the part Everett was born to play and the pleasant surprise is that both his writing and directing here means he deserves another crack at both on the big screen.