Stars: Stephen Fry, Jude Law
An interesting drama if you know nothing about the playwright, Oscar Wilde (“The Importance of Being Ernest”, “Lady Windemere’s Fan”, and others).
Wilde was married, with two children when he became bisexual. Drunk on fame and good fortune from his writings, he was enormously popular in the late 1800’s.
According to this drama, his bisexuality was awakened by the urgings of one young friend and from that point on, Wilde became obsessed with young men from every walk of life. That obsession eventually leads to his arrest, conviction and imprisonment for committing “indecent acts”. Upon release, he is banished to live out the remainder of his days in obscurity.
Wilde’s (Stephen Fry) decline comes as a result of falling in love with a young aristocrat , Lord Alfred Douglas (Jude Law), commonly referred to as Bosie, a singularly good-looking but greedy and selfish snot.
The film portrays Wilde’s dalliances as common and widely accepted. Nary an eyebrow is raised, all chalked up to his being an artist, I guess. He is even caught in a hotel room as a voyeur to Bosie and another young’s man’s sexual activities by the hotel clerk and his assistant and there is not so much as a reaction from the duo. Except for Bosie’s father who is so repulsed as to threaten to bring Wilde down, you’d think everybody in England was pro homosexuality. It isn’t until Wilde’s arrest that you get the idea, that this was a big no-no back then.
It’s hard to have too much sympathy for the character or the man. He flaunted his sexuality; going to men’s clubs, being seen in public places with young men, virtually abandoning his wife and kids. Fry as Wilde comes across as emotionless on many an occasion, unless you count vague amusement as an “emotion”. Law does a whole lot better but his character is a robust child who sports some heavy-duty temper tantrums. He’s quite a good looker and you can see the immediate attraction Wilde has for him that becomes the obsession leading to his ruination.
So the question is: does being an “artist” mean you can break conventions and rules? Apparently so, because they’re still being broken today and as long as you get away with it, it’s okay. But even the “artists” occasionally have to suffer for their actions.
Lotta says take it or leave it. Interesting from an historical point of view. Also stars Vanessa Redgrave in a small role as Wilde’s mother and Zoe Wannamaker as a family friend. Generally good acting; subject matter for adults who don’t mind blatant homosexuality.