Wilde

on May 01, 1998 by Christine James
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   "How dreary," remarks a character within the first few minutes of "Wilde." Too bad the phrase will keep popping up in the minds of audience members who expect to be treated to the delightful, peerless wit of playwright Oscar Wilde, but instead must sit through a plodding, downbeat drama with all potential for mirth drained from it.
   Renowned British comedian Stephen Fry ("Cold Comfort Farm") is directed to portray Wilde with such restraint that the effect is somnambulistic. The film focuses entirely on the problems caused by Oscar's homosexuality--his proclivity for indiscreet youths being his downfall. He falls in love with Bosie (Jude Law, who played another ne'er-do-well lover of a prominent older man in "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil"), a lively and passionate but tiresomely impetuous and immature young lord. The fact that Wilde is married with two children complicates things, as does late-1800s society's intolerance for `alternative lifestyles.'
   While Wilde's orientation and its effect on his life certainly shouldn't have been glossed over, it's disappointing that the filmmakers found his angst so much more important than his humor. Hope for levity is piqued when Wilde must attempt to win over Bosie's puritanical, tyrannical father, but even here he does not display sufficient charm or cleverness. This unrelentingly solemn, troubled Wilde fails to engage sympathy or, more importantly, interest, and as a result, nor does the film. Michael Sheen ("Othello"), however, is noteworthy in his moving performance as Robbie, the man who first seduced Oscar, and loved him enough to let him go.    Starring Stephen Fry, Jude Law, Vanessa Redgrave and Jennifer Ehle. Directed by Brian Gilbert. Written by Julian Mitchell. Produced by Marc Samuelson and Peter Samuelson. A Sony Pictures Classics release. Drama. Rated R for strong sexuality and language. Running time: 116 min.
Tags: Stephen Fry, Jude Law, Vanessa Redgrave, Jennifer Ehle, Directed by Brian Gilbert, Written by Julian Mitchell. Produced by Marc Samuelson, Peter Samuelson, A Sony Pictures Classics release, Drama, disappointing, immature, impetuous, passionate, downfall, love
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