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Dorian Gray (DVD)

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Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy / To Be Announced / Director: Oliver Parker / Actors: Ben Barnes, Colin Firth, Rebecca Hall, Ben Chaplin, Rachel Hurd-Wood ... / Features of the DVD: PAL

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    Your dooyooMiles Miles

    31 Reviews
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      02.01.2012 22:02
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      A cynical and clumsy distillation of certain elements of "The Picture of Dorian Gray"

      Adapting classic works to film with the intention of selling them to as wider audience as possible is not always an enviable task. The advantages are obvious. Classic works of literature are recognizable to a lot of people and are institutions. True, you are at the mercy of the fans and scholars, but that's going to be the case whatever you adapt. Here lies the first disadvantage. Classic literature, at least works written before the motion picture industry got moving, were not intended to be viewed as films. You will notice that most modern novels often work using the rhythm of a feature film or TV drama. This is why authors that straddled the changing times of entertainment, like J.R.R. Tolkien, stated that their books could never be successfully adapted to the big or small screen. The timelines of a lot of novels just did not lend themselves to rapid scene changing we consider to be normal today. However, such excuses cannot be presented for Oliver Parker's crude and crass 2009 adaptation of Oscar Wilde's famous Gothic novel "The Picture of Dorian Gray".

      There is a mistake I feel a lot of filmmakers fall foul of when they look to refresh the classics. The mistake is to take the anti-pretentious stance a stage too far. I applaud anyone who recognizes that William Shakespeare was foremost an entertainer who needed to pay the bills. Even his loftier works will contain elements of broad and bawdy humour as well as energetic and expressive fight scenes. However, to then decide that he was little more than the Michael Bay of his era is massive boo-boo. Likewise, "The Picture of Dorian Gray" may find itself amid horror and supernatural novels and it certainly raised an eyebrow for its raciness, insinuations and commentary on London's seedy underbelly, but it was never a penny dreadful. The core of this story is a discussion on personal responsibility, influence over others, innocence, duplicity and superficiality. Wilde was later considered to be an embodiment of the moral decay presented in the novel as being the most recognizable promoter of the Victorian aesthetic movement. However, what we find in the novel is far more heart and substance. What the team behind "Dorian Gray" seem to have been attempting to do is strip the novel's intellectual argument down to what they see as its most base elements and market it directly fans of horror and fantasy. This will perhaps explain why it competed at Sitges Film Festival - Europe's biggest horror/fantasy movie competition.

      The trouble with Wilde's novel is that there is even less to titillate your average gore and shock fan than Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. At least, with the latter you can exaggerate the monster. "The Picture of Dorian Gray" has a picture that becomes more monstrous as its subject remains aesthetically beautiful. It has a relatively low body count and the rest of its titular character's crimes are generally implied and insinuated. In fact, the implication and insinuation, a fantastic development by Wilde that uses the English sense of sexual repression against itself, is part of its impact.

      So, what we are left with a film that makes Sofia Coppolla's 2006 MTV-style take on the life Marie Antoinette look subtle and thought-provoking. It's crass and crude from clichéd dream sequences to the blatant whoring of its lead character to the horrible digitized scenery that pops here and there. Whereas Wilde kept toyed with his readers by keeping the sensuality and the then taboo subject matter just below the surface - he takes clever swipes at the anti-intellectualism of religion and implies homoeroticism - the 2009 film lets fly with impassioned pleas in a confessional box and Dorian Gray seducing his painter. Gone are much of Wilde's clever dialogue and discussions, replaced by forgettable exchanges between the actors used to merely move the action along. The opium den, which is at least mentioned in the novel, and the whorehouses are straight out of a Hammer Horror movie. It all becomes rather tired territory.

      One of the film's few saving graces is its reasonable cast. Colin Firth's Lord Henry Wooton does tend eclipse Ben Barnes as Dorian. He is a sort of Jonny Depp to Barnes's Orlando Bloom if you get my meaning. Nevertheless, Barnes could still have played a convincing and appropriate Dorian with a better script. Rebecca Hall is predictably brought in as a stronger female role than the novel's original Vicar's daughter. It's not her fault but the whole thing smacks of 21st century formula and you just know how her surplus actions are going to further take us away from the self-destructive introspection of the novel's climax. The effects are generally ropey and uninspired with a lot falling back on CGI effects. However, the scenes involving the actual picture do show us sudden sparks of horror talent. Having a fly lay its egg in the eye of the picture may be far less subtle than the original smug grin of arrogance that marks the first sign of the tainting of Dorian's soul, but it works quite well. I also like the final reveal, which builds tension with a heavy evil breathing coming from the hidden painting.

      In conclusion despite Firth and Banes, we could have not been provided with a less crass and more cynical adaptation of Wilde's story if this had been a spin-off movie using the Dorian Gray character from 2003's "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" movie.

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        27.02.2011 18:01
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        The story of a wish granted and a curse received

        It was only last night that I watched this film, I remember hearing bits and bobs about it when it was first released but didn't bother with it until recently, whilst browsing DVD's on Amazon, I came across it and decided to order it. It cost me £4.99.


        -- Dorian Gray -- May Contain Spoilers --

        After doing a bit of research I found, Dorian Gray the film, to be a British adaptation of Oscar Wilde 1891 novel "The Picture of Dorian Gray". The film was written by Toby Finlay, directed by Oliver Parker, starring Colin Firth and Ben Barnes and was released in September 2009.

        It's Victorian times, (1800's) when Dorian Gray a beautiful, charming and powerful young man, first arrives in London, heading straight into the social scene, he instantly becomes very closely gaurded by the corrupt Lord Henry Wotton, who introduces Dorian to the seedy and sinful pleasures within the darker side of London life.
        An artist paints a portrait of Dorian, with the results bearing the exact resemblance of him. Dorian is captivated with the picture and swears he would give anything to maintain the beauty and youth that his portrait displays.
        He gets his wish, he is granted eternal youth in exchange for his soul. All is good for Dorian for a time, but things take a dramatic change for the worse, as he slips deeper and deeper into the deadly world of sin and evil. He has to somehow hide his secret of eternal youth and beauty, so decides to hide the portrait, and locks it away, out of sight because as he gets older, although his apperance remains the same, his portrait begins to age.
        Dorian soon begins to realise, his wish for eternal youth and beauty was nothing more than a curse he received as a result of selling his soul to the devil.
        When Dorian eventually finds true love, is it to late to save his soul.......

        Run time: 107 mins.
        sound track format and Audio Content: Dolby Digital Surround.
        Audio Discription: Discriptive Audio Track for the Visually Impaired.
        Feature Aspect Ratio: Widescreen version.
        Genera: Horror/Fantasy.
        Certificate 15.

        Main Cast include:
        Dorian Gray - Ben Barnes
        Lord Henry "Harry" Wotton - Colin Firth
        Basil Hallward (The Artist) - Ben Chaplin
        Lady Victoria Wotton - Emilia Fox

        Matthew Bourne's Dorian Gray Soundtrack album can be downloaded from Amazon for £6.99

        Special features include:
        Commentary with Director and scriptwriter.
        Making of Dorian Gray.
        Deleted Scenes.
        Bloopers.
        Costume, location and effects featurettes.
        Costume photo gallery.
        Trailer.


        --My thoughts on the film--

        At first, I thought the film to be somewhat slow to get going. The film did get better as the pace began to speed up. The story I very much enjoyed, with both Colin Firth and Ben Barnes playing their parts excellently. I was a bit put off, by the parts of the film which displayed the scenes in the opium dens, which displayed scenes of sex and violence, a little much I thought, as the film is only a 15 certificate. However after saying that I suppose these scenes were needed to a certain extent, to show viewers the darker, more evil side of Dorian Gray.
        As soon as the film got going properly I was very drawn in, it helps if the actors are convincing at playing their parts and in my opinion this was very much the case with this film.
        The music used to accompany the film fit perfectly, and I liked it very much. The sound quality of the film was good, however the colour in the film itself was somewhat bland, it was difficult to tell sometimes, if the picture was black and white or indeed colour. But this did not spoil my enjoyment of the film and when all's said and done, I personally would have liked the film to continue further forward in time. I guess I was enjoying the film to the point that I just wanted the story to carry on and on.

        So, I can say, I did enjoy the film once it got going properly, I will most probably watch it again and I may even purchase the book (that will probably be even better than the film).

        I give this film 4 stars because in my opinion, it took a while to get going, but was good overall.

        Thank you for reading my review which may also be posted on Ciao

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          27.12.2010 18:46
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          Read the book to learn everything the film tried, but failed to say.

          The 2009 film Dorian Gray turned out to be a big surprise. That is, I did not expect it would be so bad. The four stars from Cosmopolitan and an ecstatic comment about Ben Barnes from Glamour on the back of the DVD made me a bit suspicious, but I thought the film would be mediocre at worst.

          The beginning of the film (and in the context of this film the beginning lasts approximately an hour) summarises the original Oscar Wilde story. Dorian Gray moves into his inherited estate in London and quickly gets into Lord Henry Wotton's circle. Dorian's innocent beauty inspires artist Basil Hallward to paint a portrait. Under Lord Henry's influence Dorian wishes he could always stay as young and beautiful as in the portrait...

          Dorian's romance with Sybil Vane also comes approximately in the first hour of the film. As soon as the Sybil story is dealt with, the connection with the original book is basically over. Sybil's suicide unleashes Dorian's passion for forbidden pleasures with which the portrait struggles to catch up. Since the film, unlike Oscar Wilde's book, lacks any subtlety, all the forbidden pleasures the filmmakers managed to come up with hardly went beyond the local brothel. Even Basil's adoration for Dorian was vulgarised to the maximum. In the book Dorian read dodgy books and had an exquisite art collection, which was probably inspired by Jean Des Esseintes, the main character of À Rebours by JK Huysmans. Interestingly, the book is mentioned in the DVD extras and, indeed, the DVD extras include so much talk of how deep and subtle the film is that I suspect it was said about some other film, not the one I watched.

          Of course, it is hard to show subtleties on the screen, but, come on, Tom Tykwer managed to make a brilliant film out of Patrick Suskind's Perfume. By the way, I remembered about Perfume in particular because Rachel Hurd-Wood was in both films; in Dorian Gray she played Sybil.

          Dorian Gray himself had little to do with Oscar Wilde's character. In the book Dorian was supposed to look as innocent as a baby so that people would find it extremely hard to associate his appearance with his true nature. Dorian in the film looks as if he'd moved to London right from the latest Twilight movie and any physiognomist would tell you not to expect anything good from this guy.

          Yet, the biggest disappointment for me was Lord Henry who did not have even a drop of Englishness in him and whose speech was powered by the Lord Henry quote randomiser.

          Speaking about the technical quality of the film, it doesn't score in this field either. The DVD menu was accompanied by very nice music, so I expected to hear at least an atmospheric soundtrack, but unfortunately most of the film happened in silence, which made it seem even longer. I actually thought it lasted about 3 hours, but it was only 112 minutes (under 2 hours). The film obviously had some CGI done, but in some scenes it looked just too conspicuous (I do not mean just the portrait which became animated for no good reason).The footage quality reminded me of a TV period-soap rather than a big-screen picture, either due to a lack of budget or because the filmmakers themselves squandered all the money in brothels or something.

          By the way, some complain there is too much sex in the film. Umm... I am not sure. It occurs too often, but there is hardly anything you won't see in other Hollywood movies. Not Pasolini, definitely.

          All in all, I would like to summarise my impression of the film the following way: I am really sorry that I gave the DVD to my friends for Christmas. Fortunately, we didn't watch it together.

          P.S. In the DVD extras people also discuss what Oscar Wilde would be doing if he were alive nowadays. I think he would ask the filmmakers to remove his name from the writing credits.

          ----
          NB: This review is mirrored in my blog at www.artymind.com

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            26.12.2010 19:16
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            If you don't have the time to read the original, you could do worse than watch this. It's OK.

            This 2009 film starring Ben Barnes and Colin Firth is a fairly pedestrian retelling of the famous Oscar Wilde tale, 'The Picture of Dorian Gray.' I say 'pedestrian' because, while watchable, I wouldn't say there is anything particularly innovative about the way it is done or the way the story is told. The publicity made quite a lot of the special effects, but in fact I was not impressed by that either. The effects were pretty obvious much of the time, whereas good CGI should be inconspicuous. On the other hand, not much harm was done by them either. They were just similar in quality to the rest of the film. Colin Firth stood out as playing the most interesting character in the story, Lord Henry Wotton, who corrupts young Dorian, and he did his job well.

            For those of you unfamiliar with the basic story, Dorian inherits a fortune, and falls in with wealthy people of a basically amoral character - Lord Henry Wotton, an intellectual, and Basil Hallward (Ben Chapman), a painter. They take Dorian out for a drink in seedy Whitechapel, and between being propositioned by prostitutes in the pub, Lord Henry essentially sums up the question the film is asking. He says, "There's no shame in pleasure, Mr Gray. You see, man just wants to be happy, but society wants him to be good and when he's good man is rarely happy and when he's happy he's always good." Dorian asks him about the price on one's soul for such behavour and the question is answered with a drink to the devil, in effect. Henry says, "Everything is possible for you because you have the only two things worth having: youth, and beauty." Shortly afterwards, he adds, as Dorian misses out on talking to an attractive young woman, "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." Back at his house, Basil has finished a portrait he has been painting of Dorian. On seeing it, Henry points out that the painting will always stay the same, but Dorian will grow old and die. Dorian abhors this fate and asks that it doesn't happen to him. Lord Henry quickly incants a spell as if reciting from a piece of literature and asks Dorian if he would really want this... Dorian says, "Yes," and the spell is cast. The painting takes on all his infirmity, all his evil, all his venereal disease even, and he stays young for the rest of the film as others age around him. He lives the life of a rake, having any women (or men) he pleases, with no physical consequences for him, however much harm it does to others. He murders to hide his secret, and gets away with it... and while he stays the same, the painting becomes uglier and uglier as it shows the real Dorian...

            So in a way, the film is asking, is beauty a more important virtue than goodness? This is a very relevant question in today's world of commercialised prostitutes-as-stars, where appearance is everything. And, interestingly, in the film, the women Dorian seduced, on the whole, were rather plain by modern cinematic standards, perhaps to underline this point: they were <em>real people</em>, being used and hurt by him, not fashion icons with no fundamental reality.

            The attribute of beauty in the modern age has been at once exploited in the world of the mass media, and at the same time ignored in society in general: our buildings, for example, are no longer designed with the idea of 'beauty' in mind, as many were in a former age (Dorian Gray's Victorian times, for example). Today, functionality is all. The same is true for, say, furniture. Much of what is available in the shops, in the way of products in general indeed, is functional but ugly. One could argue that modern products like iphones and imacs have some beauty about their design, and they do look nice - but slick and modern and minimalistic is only one sort of beauty - and it is strictly commercial. Beauty is being used to advertise and promote products, including film & TV 'personalities' (LOL) and even presidents, arguably, but not for iteslf. Beauty too is just functional in the modern world.

            The film also asks, is happiness more important than pleasure: is the pleasure-ridden life of a rake actually worth it? Does it make Dorian happy in the end? Well, of course not. I suppose I don't need to say any more about that: you can watch the film to see how it turns out.

            So that's the philosoply, how about the film??? Well, nothing special, and I would add, a little long. The story is told, certainly. I just feel it could have been told better. Some of the ideas in the film are just too simple-minded. For example, the way the picture changes and animates gets more and more laughable but if you can suspend your disbelief you can probably survive to the end. As a film, I would say that it does answer the questions it sets out to ask, as described above, but I would still only score it maybe 5/10, but since it raises some interesting philosophical questions about modern life, and as Oscar Wilde certainly wrote a cracking good story, 6/10 overall: watchable, but only just.

            This review is also to be found in my blog, http://www.alphatucana.co.uk/blog/alphatucana.php

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              30.07.2010 13:17
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              If you still fancy it then rent it, dont buy it

              I had wanted to see this for some time so was really happy when it arrived from my DVD rental company yesterday. This is a film only review.

              *Plot*
              Dorian Gray arrives in London after inheriting a house. He is innocent and kind and is eager to make friends. The one man who shows him a lot of interest is Lord Henry Wotton, so Dorian is quickly taken under his wing.

              An artist is comissioned to paint a portrait of Dorian as soon as he arrives and this painting ages, though Dorian himself does not.

              Dorian is a well behaved young man but Henry wants him to behave differently. Despite Dorian finding himself a partner, Henry convinces him that a life of sex and violence is the way to go. Dorian isnt so sure but which lifestyle will he choose?

              *Opinion*
              I liked the idea of the film but found that as I was watching it it seemed to be very repetitive and therefore although there was always something going on, most of it had already happened!

              The plot was good but to me the film seemed a little bit too long, this was probably due to the repititon and without all of this then I think I would have enjoyed the film far more.

              I liked the character of Dorian from the start and immediately disliked Henry when he decided he was going to try and convince Dorian to live his life the way he thought he should. I found it difficult to understand Henry and hated him with a passion!

              The content of the film was ok, it contained an awful lot of sex and every time a sexual scene came on the screen I thought to myself 'oh here we go again', now I dont mind the odd sex scene but I really did feel there was a bit too much in this film and it really began to bore me about half way through the film.

              In summary, this film could have been an awful lot better than it was. I had high expectations of this film and it really didnt live up to them. I wish it was better but I was quite disappointed.

              *Additional Information*
              The film was released in 2009.
              It was directed by Oliver Parker.
              The film is based around a novel by Oscar Wilde, but the screen play was written by Toby Finlay.
              It starred Colin Firth, Caroline Goodall and Nathen Rosen.
              It is rated a 15 in the UK.
              Runtime of the film is 112 minutes.
              The DVD is available from Amazon for £5.99 but I would recommend renting it.

              *Summary*
              Not what I thought it would be.

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                07.07.2010 15:30
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                A film adaptation not entirely faithful to the book or indeed as good as the novel.

                (Please note: This is a film only review - thanks!)

                I've been a fan of Oscar Wilde's epic novel 'A Picture of Dorian Gray' since I first read it a couple of years ago. Although I wanted to see the latest incarnation of the perplexing tale, I am normally a little dubious of screen adaptations: the screenwriter sometimes takes too many liberties with the original text and it becomes difficult to distinguish whether such liberties are deliberate or a case of the writer merely forgetting original - and sometimes highly important - details. This adaptation, with its title stripped to just the lead character's name, had to do several things in order to be successful. Mirroring the novel's excellent and somewhat disturbing downfall of a man in a cryptic and serious manner was one thing but the actor that played Dorian had to bring together all dimensions of his confusing character in order for this film to be a successful one.

                Set in the Victorian London, 'Dorian Gray' portrays a man whose self infatuation spirals his life out of control after a generous inheritance from his deceased Father. After having his portrait painted and admired by men and women alike, Dorian becomes fixated by the notion of aging and the loss of youthful beauty to the point where it takes over his life and begins to tamper with the non-physical. But can Dorian escape his own vanity before it's too late?

                THE CAST AND CHARACTERS
                Ben Barnes, from movies such as Stardust and Prince Caspian, depicts Dorian as if he was a puppy and seemed very shy right until the end of the movie. Yet, I don't think any of this was entirely Ben's fault; he made a believable Dorian Gray but he was perhaps a bit too youthful looking for me and during the scenes of a sexual nature, I couldn't help but think he should be covering his eyes as he made love! Barnes as Dorian will obviously appeal to many; he's got a cute smile, dimples and fairly expressive eyes which all captured Dorian's innocence well but I just don't think he was that strikingly suited to his role in Dorian Gray. He portrayed Gray well enough and grew a little with the role as Dorian began to realise his sexual powers but for me personally, he never brought out the quasi headstrong side of Gray in a convincing way. Ben's niche throughout the film was definitely his attractiveness and his cutesy charm.

                But the fact that Colin Firth featured as the aristocratic Lord Henry Wotton may not have helped Barnes' cause. Now, I know I'm a fan of 'the older man' perhaps in contrast to pretty boys but I honestly couldn't keep my eyes off Firth every time he came on the screen. I've never seen that many movies starring Firth before but for his role as Wotton, he was perfect. Colin didn't do anything extravagant or indeed flashy - he just stood and uttered his lines in a charming, old English accent - but there was something so enigmatic about his portrayal of Lord Henry and I still can't put my finger on it. In a way, again by a bizarre twist of fate, I thought Firth stole the show; his acting may have been a bit too stern in places but he brought a lot of charm to his character when need be, especially with the cynical ripostes along the way.

                Richard Hurd-Wood portrayed Dorian's first real love interest, Sybil Vane, with the sickly sweetness that the role required. Well, her character was well portrayed to an extent; I believed that she could be a genuine and captivating love interest for Dorian but when things started to break down for the couple, her acting felt a little flat. There are some scenes in the movie where hints of anger should have been present on Hurd-Wood's part but such feelings never materialised into anything and those scenes just seemed to drag, especially on account of Barnes not being able to pick up the pace with his acting. Rachel didn't do badly in this film but I do think she was mainly cast for her angelic, open face and long, red hair.

                The other significant female character in Dorian's life is Emily and in comparison to Sybil seems a lot more determined but still infatuated with Dorian...but of course, how could a gal resist those big eyes and the lashings of brown hair? Played by Rebecca Hall, it's important to point out that Emily was a character concocted out of thin air for the purpose of the movie which I'll explain in a little more detail later on but as far as Hall's portrayal went, she did a great job in her role and was much more convincing than Hurd-Wood. Of course, the two females were completely different; Emily was a bit ballsier and came from a well-to-do background versus Sybil who always seemed more timid.

                It has to be said that 'Dorian Gray' does have many characters throughout which I've simply forgotten about. I'm sure that Emilia Fox as Lady Victorian Wotton was every bit as charming as her name implies and that Fiona Shaw as Lady Agatha was wonderful too, not to mention Ben Chaplin as Dorian's artist, Basil. Yet, it seems to me that unless your character was called Dorian or Henry, as an actor you wouldn't get a lot of opportunities to shine throughout the film. From the start, it was blatantly obvious that the focus was perhaps on Dorian and Henry's relationship more so than any other and this had a great impact on the romantic subplots of the film.

                APPEARANCE, CHARACTERISATION AND NARRATIVE
                There is one thing that I think really shone about this adaptation of 'Dorian Gray': the set design, atmosphere and costumes were stunning. Apart from a couple of good performances, it's difficult to deny that the set up of 'Dorian Gray' was one of the films saving graces. I was hoping for a setting that was murky and a bit uneasy and I think Director Oliver Parker captured such a tense atmosphere perfectly, especially considering the film was set during the Victorian era; although the scenes seemed to get progressively darker and more menacing, the use of shadow and light worked wonderfully here and really gave the film an edge that some of the performances lacked. The scenery in a way can be likened to Burton's adaptation of 'Sweeny Todd' in the sense that everything was overtly dark and made to look very creepy. The old-fashion appeal of the train station at the beginning of the film was remarkable; it looked so authentic and was a brilliant precursor to the many other Victorian-esque destinations that were set to follow, including the theatre and dimly lit, candled back alleys.

                Yet, away from the chilling blue and black camera filters that graced many of the scenes, it has to be said that there were some moments throughout the film where Parker got more than a little carried away with trying to make everything look so dramatic and over the top. For example, the CGI effects used at the very end of the film were anticipated yet very grotesque. I know horror as a genre slots into 'Dorian Gray' in some capacity but the graphics at such points looked too much and in a way detracted from the final moments of the film. It would have been nice if the producers could have come up with a slightly more original ending, one that perhaps wasn't so CGI dependant and essentially made the films ending a little more thrilling and challenging to watch for all of the right reasons.

                Also, some of the sex scenes throughout the course of the film became a bit too gratuitous for my liking. I understand the logic of showing Dorian as a sex-craved maniac; he's been built up by Henry as a gorgeous young man who has the world - and perhaps a couple of breasts - in the palms of his hands. Dorian should be celebrating such exquisite beauty, not hiding from it which is, I suppose, a fair point. But the film just descended into a mass orgy and considering it's only a 15, I was quite surprised as to how freely naked bodies were thrusted towards the camera at such moments. The sex scenes appeared to last forever and they ruined the pace of the film for me; up until then, it had all be progressing quite well, albeit a bit slowly in places, but nothing too drastically apathetic.

                The relationship between Dorian and Henry was undeniably the melting pot of the whole film; Dorian looking to Henry as a Father figure was very much a part of the novel but it felt like such an integral part of the film and one that was very difficult to ignore. Firth's portrayal of Wotton was every bit as convincing as it needed to be to ensure that Gray followed through with his plans of becoming quite the womaniser, especially after his notion that the only two things worth having in this life are looks and youth. This all sounds very sinister and those of you who have read the book will appreciate the darker moments but it didn't strike me as that much of an important scene. Perhaps I was too preoccupied with fiddling about in my jacket pocket for gum or trying to find my mobile phone but I don't remember Dorian's pledge to stay beautiful or youthful forever. As that is the catalyst for the entire downfall of Gray, you'd hope that it was just me being a wee bit spacey but I don't think it was. A greater emphasis should have been put on that moment as a way to really denote the future consequences of Dorian's words. If you're not familiar with the book, I really want to stress how important it is to pay attention during such moments or else you may miss the bulk of the story in as many seconds as it takes to blink five times. The dialogue between Henry and Dorian in particular is the most part significant and even if they are hushing to one another like a couple of lovelorn teenagers, it's a good idea to try and take note during such segments or else you could find yourself missing out on a significant chunk of the plot.

                The juxtaposition between the young and the old Dorian is one of the most striking parts of the narrative although I think upon a first viewing, its force perhaps takes over from the deeper parts of the film. The young, vulnerable Dorian is like plasticine; mouldable and influenced by Henry, it's an interesting part of the story and one that I think has been portrayed easily and simply without trying to over complicate Dorian's naivety. He is confused with how to handle a shot and is definitely shy when it comes to sex. But the narrative allows such a growth and change in Dorian's attitudes to sexual conduct to change and evolve well and whilst it might seem very blatant and in your face the first time round, I think when you see clips of the film or even watch the movie again, it's easy to appreciate that Henry as the driving force behind Dorian's self infatuation. Barnes, as I mentioned earlier, didn't fair particularly well when it came to showing Gray's demonic side; I could believe that Dorian was scared by his transformation but between the cockiness of his woman-loving charms, it all became a bit too confused in places for me.

                Naturally, Dorian is a confusing character but throughout this film, it seemed as if there were simply too many visions for Gray that never quite materialised into anything significant.

                The inclusion of the Emily character was a nice little addition and added some focus back onto Dorian as a person and it was, in many ways, a smart way to progress the fundamental relationship of the story. Emily's role was simply to progress the plot and allow Dorian's mind to stop flitting between women long enough for the viewer to comprehend exactly what was going on. But, it has to be said, Emily came across as a bit of a know-it-all at some moments and this did discredit Hall's portrayal to some degree. She almost spoke down to Dorian which I don't think a woman during the Victorian era would necessarily do and this did, in essence, try and make the film thrive to be desperately modern.

                The dialogue on the whole was well done with the best examples (of course) coming from the Chauvinistic, strong-willed Lord Henry. His speech about nailing his soul to the Devil's alter as he introduced Gray to the fun of drinking was inspired and delivered with such conviction by Firth that I couldn't help but wish he could pin me to the alter too! It was moments like this where 'Dorian Gray' became an absorbing story for me once again; some of the dialogue was delivered with such chilling certainty that it became every bit as haunting as the book during such moments.

                THE OVERALL PICTURE OF 'DORIAN GRAY' IS...
                That it's a good movie with a few faults that do undeniably let it down quite considerably. I will never discredit the appearance of the film; it looked amazing and really set the tone of the film as dealing with dark entities and topics. But between the somewhat debatable casting of Dorian and far too many wanton moments, it has to be said that the film would have benefitted from a little more contemplating in some areas.

                The timing issue was one of the most prominent faults I remember whilst watching the film. I do have quite a short attention span so it perhaps wasn't a good idea to try and sit still during some of the duller parts of the film. I know that as a viewer it was essential to see Dorian's unravelling in all of its glory, warts and all, but it has to be questioned as to how many times does a person want to watch another seducing women repeatedly? It was fine to see it a couple of times, just for emphasis as to how Dorian's hedonistic ways tie into another shocking event for him but altogether, my friends and I got the impression that this film could have been condensed into roughly one and a half hours as opposed to nearly two.

                Although many purists with regards to the book may scorn the addition of Emily, I actually think that her role was necessary in order to move the story along somewhat. Due to the nature of Henry and Dorian's relationship, there had to be something there that made Henry reflect upon the monster he'd created in Dorian and I think that the most straightforward way to do that was with the addition of a female close to Henry's heart. After all, shouldn't Mr. Gray be the one who is shamelessly seducing young ladies left, right and centre, merely because he can?

                Apparently so. Yet, this adaptation of 'Dorian Gray' didn't quite seduce me enough to make me think of it as an all time classic. By all means, watch it for free on the telly if you enjoy films which are rough around the edges and fearlessly dark in others. But I doubt I'll be rushing out to buy the DVD release of this anytime soon...well, ok, I may do just to see Firth's charming performance once again.

                On second thoughts, perhaps reading 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' again would make for better entertainment.

                QUICK STATS
                Year: 2009
                Length: 112 minutes
                Genres: Gothic, horror and drama
                Rated: 15

                (Please note: this film review was previously posted on Ciao under my username, MizzMolko).

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                  08.06.2010 19:46

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                  Strangely dull adaptation of Wilde's classic novel

                  Dorian Gray is a poor adaptation of Oscar Wilde's excellent novel, which seems to lack much of the depth of the original.

                  I thought I would give the film a go as the advert made it look like a modern and fast paced take on Wilde's classic story. The tale is about young Dorian Gray, an artist's muse, who seems to have been granted the gift of eternal life as his soul is captured in a painting. As Gray stays youthful, the painting begins to show signs of ageing and very soon Dorian's sins start reflecting in it.

                  Where the book subtly builds on the idea that you can get away with anything if you're young and beautiful, the film lays it on thick, leaving none of his deeds to the imagination. In some ways the subtlety of the novel was its biggest strength because we can imagine what Dorian might get up to.

                  The acting is possibly the best thing about this as the cast makes the most of the haphazard story and although he does a good job, I can't help think that Ben Barnes was miscast as Dorian, as it was hard to see him as the painter's muse.

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                  24.04.2010 13:26
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                  Give it a miss

                  I was really excited when I first discovered they'd made a film of this story. I remember studying the book at college, and I love anything that's dark and gothic. This film, however, was a huge disappointment to me.

                  The story goes as follows:

                  Set at the turn of the last century, Dorian inherits his uncle's house in London, having come from somewhere else where, we are led to believe, he has been left wanting in the polite society department. He is socially naive and doesn't even have correctly fitting clothes, let alone ones which are fashionable. He meets Basil Hallwood, an artist and is introduced to Sir Henry Wotton, a singularly unpleasent character who treats his wife with contempt and indulges in all sorts of unsavoury behaviour, taking drugs and consulting with prostitutes.

                  It is not long before Henry draws Dorian into his world. At the same time Dorian comissions Basil to paint his portrait. It is a fantastic piece of work and is critically acclaimed by everyone. Dorian is much taken by the painting and responds to Henry's cynical goading that the painting will stay young while he grows old by swearing that he would sell his soul if it meant he could retain his youth. Thus the deal is done.

                  Dorian continues with his life in much the same way as before. He falls in love with an actress and innocently agrees to marry her, but of course society disapproves and Henry steps in to end the arrangement leading the unfortunate lady to commit suicide. Short after this Dorian discovers that anything that happens to him is quickly healed while the portrait bears the brunt. So Dorian decends into a life of depravity.

                  The film itself:

                  It was with the film that my disappointment lay. The story is a good one, but the portrayal was dismal. It lacked pace, just drifting from one scene to the next with no build up of any tension whatsoever. The swift introduction to Sir Henry Wotton was well done and led you to hope for better things to come, but all in vain. Colin Firth did a good job of playing this evil character, he was suitable cynical and tempted Dorian with relish, but his performance was the only stand out one on the screen.

                  The seedier side of late Victorian London was portrayed well, but all too briefly. The scenes where Dorian lets himself go, knowing that the portrait will take the wears of excess were so rapid as to be classified 'blink-and-you'll-miss them'. Ben Barnes, who played the lead, was suitably cast in terms of looks, he certainly is very pleasing on the eye, but just could not carry off the wickedness of the character once he's sold his soul.

                  There are a lot of scenes when Dorian goes to the attic in which he keeps the portrait locked away and the portrait makes evil noises, or we see through its eyes, but of course never get to see the full horror of the change in it until the very end. This was a let down too, and far too cartoony for my liking, it was almost laughable.

                  Dorian Gray is a certificate 15 film, so obviously the horror element couldn't be that bad, but there was a certain level of sexual activity which led me to question this rating. Nothing pornographic or too explicit, but enough to question the rating and make me feel uncomfortable watching it with my 16 year old daughter.

                  I did not watch any of the extra's on the DVD so cannot comment on those.

                  All in all, a slow film, with no suspense, tension or scariness.

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                  07.04.2010 23:20
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                  Utterly disappointing

                  Dorian Gray is a film adaptation of the Oscar Wilde 1891 novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray that was released in September 2009. The film is rated 15 due to strong sexual scenes, violence, gore, minor bad language and scenes of a disturbing nature and it is 122 minutes long. Dorian Gray also received financial help of £500,000 by the National Lottery.

                  Plot
                  Set in the late 19th century, , Dorian Gray moves back to the family home in London after his father dies as he inherits the house. While at a charity musical concert, Dorian attracts the attention of artist Basil Hallward who quickly becomes his friend. Wanting to have more fun in London, Dorian talks Basil into taking him out to more parties, where he meets Lord Henry Wotton. The three become quite inseparable but Basil is worried about Lord Henry's effects on Dorian.

                  After seeing Basil's portrait of him finally finished, Dorian realises how beautiful he really is. Lord Henry assures him that his looks will never last so he might as well make the most of the time he has now. Not knowing the meaning of the words he speaks, Dorian ends up selling in soul to the painting in exchange for his everlasting good looks.

                  After meeting actress Sybil Vane in a seedy pub, Dorian falls in love and things start to go downhill. He realises that if he gets cut, the wound heals too quickly and scars he has had for years and now gone. Once Dorian announces his engagement to Sybil, Lord Henry is keen to show him the finer ways of life and takes him to a prostitution house, fully corrupting him. Once at the theatre that night to see Sybil and introduce her to Lord Henry, Dorian is extremely mean to her and they end their relationship. When he returns home, he realises that the painting is changing instead of him.

                  The next day after arriving home at a party, Sybil's brother is waiting for Dorian only to tell him that she drowned herself. He is quite obviously distraught but Lord Henry is there to assure him that it was nothing to do with him and he cannot be blamed. Looking again at the painting, Dorian sees it changing even more and locks it away in the attic so nobody can realise what is happening.

                  Destined for a life of eternal youth, Dorian has a long time to deal with his conscience.

                  Cast
                  Ben Barnes as Dorian Gray
                  Colin Firth as Lord Henry Wotton
                  Rebecca Hall as Emily Wotton
                  Ben Chaplin as Basil Hallward
                  Emilia Fox as Victoria, Lady Henry Wotton
                  Rachel Hurd-Wood as Sibyl Vane
                  Fiona Shaw as Agatha
                  Maryam d'Abo as Gladys
                  Pip Torrens as Victor

                  My Opinion
                  I had wanted to see this film ever since I first saw the trailers but after reading the book, I wasn't so sure I wanted to anymore. Adaptations of novels tend to either be truly amazing or a complete waste of money and time so I was a bit wary about watching this one when I loved the book so much.

                  Ben Barnes was adequate but I think someone else could have played Dorian much better. While he played the naïve young boy well, once corrupted, there just wasn't enough evil in him to be convincing. When Sybil died, I expected to see a lot more emotion from Barnes but he just didn't seem distraught enough to make it believable that he really cared for her at one point.

                  Ben Chaplin who was most famously known for being in the 90's TV show 'Game On' and was the last person that I would have pictured for playing Basil Hallward. I had always pictured Basil as at least a middle aged man and Chaplin was not the same Basil as I had imagined. I think this way mainly because the film didn't make it clear enough that he was completely infatuated with Dorian and it only seemed that they were good friends. Basil was supposed to really care about the fact that Lord Henry is corrupting Dorian but I didn't get this feeling at all.

                  Not being a fan of Colin Firth, I was nicely surprised by his role in this film. He was completely mischievous with clear ulterior motives when it comes to Dorian and because of this, I was more interested in Lord Henry than I was Dorian for most of the film. Dorian Gray is a tale of morality but rather than the main character repent from his sins, it seems that once Lord Henry's daughter is in the picture, he shows more growth and concern than Dorian does.

                  It is quite clear that a lot of money was spend on costumes and the interior sets but from the first couple of scenes in, where the external of houses were shown, the film had cheap BBC film written all over it. You could see that the bricks and windows were painted on which made it seem more like a play to begin with than anything else. It was only when the film really begun that it felt more real.

                  The film as a whole deviated from the novel quite dramatically. There were so many points that were changed from the original story or parts that were newly added. I know certain things have to be done to a novel to make it work on the big screen but I thought some were unneeded. The fact that Dorian's picture was never shown to the public in the book was a big thing for me because it played a large part in the story. Another was the addition of Lord Henry's daughter, Emily. She was never a character in a book and this addition caused the ending of the story to completely change in the film which I assume was done to pad out the time.

                  As the book was a gothic horror, I was expecting there to be more drama, mystery and shocks throughout the film but it wasn't nearly creepy enough. The picture itself was supposed to be the most terrifying part in the film but it failed miserably. Instead of only changing appearance, it took on a life of its own. The noises that the picture made were supposed to be really creepy but I thought that they took away from what it was supposed to stand for. The picture in full was only shown at the end of the film and I was truly disappointed to see what it had become. I do admit though that the maggots and rotting were a nice touch, especially after the picture had been locked away for so long.

                  The thing that I loved so much about the book that it was so thought provoking and you never really got to know the things that Dorian got up to at night but here, there was nothing at all to think about. Set in the late Victorian era, wild orgies and lots of drinking would have been the idea of evil in such a gently bred man and this is what Dorian does for fun. He shows no shame in sleeping with people in the same family or who he hurts along the way. When he returns from his travels, everyone is shocked to see him, especially looking so good but from knowing what he is like, no one is openly welcoming him back. I would have greatly preferred it if some of Dorian's wicked ways were left to the imagination as I felt this ruined a big part of the film.

                  Overall, I was as disappointed with this film as I thought I would be. While the acting was adequate, the deviations from the original story were the make or break point for me. Unfortunately this film did not do justice to such an amazing story.

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                    14.03.2010 17:50
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                    I have more exciting fungus under my toe nails.....

                    Based on the 1891 novel by Oscar Wilde, The 2009 film Dorian Gray commanded high expectations from the public and anybody that's ever read the book. Directed by Oliver Parker and screenplay written by Toby Finlay the film could never have been a middle of the road experience, it was either going to be brilliant and cleverly artistic with the all the guile of Victorian London swooping onto the screen or it was going to be an abysmal portrayal of classic literary work, gone oh so terribly wrong.

                    So, which was it?.. I was excited about this film for sometime and having read the book a few months before it was released at the box office I have the following to say - I did not in enjoy the book, controversial I know, however I am not reviewing the book here. I also did not enjoy the film. Infact have various issue with it, so numerous infact that it would become a list the length of the Bayou Tapestry and as boring as watching grey paint dry on the living room walls of a house belonging to a Man named Norman who lived in Normington West Mediocre.

                    The Cast have no weight to carry as far as blame goes for this pathetic attempt to revive a once enigmatic and altogether fascinating character. Colin Firth as usual delivers a truly stellar performance as the aging pleasure seeker, Lord Henry Wotton. The sad but opulently clear truth is Colin Firth carried this film and the script, to his credit he is perhaps the productions only redeeming quality. The bit parts of underdeveloped characters and poor dialogue left me underwhelmed and annoyed that the film industry can still permit detritus of this order onto our screens.

                    Dorian Gray is disgusting brutalisation of something that was once considered a gothic - horror classic with Faustian themes running throughout and boring to the core of Man's lust for life and desire neglecting all else that is not a new sensation or experience. This production holds none of the brilliance it so easily could have, it is sloppy workmanship, the camera work is not terrible but could have been a little more creative give the subject. As a period dramatisation and horror film the transition from book to screen has failed miserably and I honestly think the Production team ought to be ashamed of calling 'that's a wrap' at the end of filming.

                    Apart from the familiar stylistics of an actor honing his distinctive method (firth) and the Poster or front cover of the DVD there really is little about this film you could say anything good. Dorian Gray, Ben Barnes, has been put on screen entirely for his looks and not his ability to act in any particular scene. I can't honestly recommend this film, I wouldn't desuade people from watching it but afterwards all I wanted to do was take the life from every thing pretty in the world and turn it in on itself as if to implode it like a dying star.

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                      06.03.2010 15:51

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                      I personally wouldn't recommend it, unless, of course, you have a lot of time spare.

                      "The Picture Of Dorian Gray" tells the tale of Dorian: a man who is desperate to keep his youth. After his good friend, Basil, paints a picture of him, Dorian begins to develop a large obsession, and desire, to stay young. What he doesn't realise is that his wish has been fulfilled. As Dorian's life goes on, he stays young... but the picture that was painted of him (which represents his soul) begins to age... dramatically. The mistakes he has made leave huge un-erasable marks on his soul. As his life goes on, he chooses to ignore his errors. However, at the end, it becomes too late: he must face the consequences of a life of sin.

                      This message of this story is very effective. I must confess, when I started watching it, I was not extremely impressed. Having read the book, I was disappointed by how long the story "dragged" on for, and how many parts of the story had been cut, making it seem very confusing.

                      It was a pretty average film: the acting that convincing, and the message of the plot was very good. However, I was not incredibly impressed.

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                      03.03.2010 18:12
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                      Not the best film I have ever seen.

                      I saw a trailer for this when I was at the cinema watching Time Travelers Wife, my mum was the one who actually commented on the film, saying she would like to watch it after reading the book. I remembered doing something about the "Picture of Dorian Gray" in primary school, been told the story about vanity in assembly. So I was interested in watching it too, but it all kind of slipped my mind when I never saw anything else about the film. That was until last night, when I was looking for a film to watch on V+ movies on demand.

                      The film was there for £3.99 for a 24 hour rental so I decided to watch it considering nothing else was on TV!

                      The story is set in the late 19th century, and follows the young Dorian Gray whose father has recently died and he has inherited his huge mansion. He is all alone in London, he knows nobody, but very quickly his fathers aquantances make themselves known and Dorian meets Lord Henry Wotton and the artist Basil Hallward.

                      Basil decides to paint a portrait of Dorian to hang on the wall of his new home, when the picture is done, Dorian realises just how beautiful he is, and just what stunning looks he has. Henry swiftly tells him these will soon fade and he will be a nobody so to make the most of his good looks. But in a twist of words, Dorian gives his soul to the painting without realising...

                      When Dorian gets cut, he realises the cut soon disappears, where he once had scars he no longer does, he cannot understand it...until he notices the painting changes as he doesn't.

                      As he should be ageing, he stays youthful. Despite years passing him by, he remains beautiful and youthful, nobody can understand what is going on, as his painting remains locked in his loft the face aging...and decaying.

                      Was selling your soul to the devil for eternal youth really the best plan for Dorian?

                      I have never read the Oscar Wilde book "The picture of Dorian Gray", although I have it on my shelf waiting to be read, it isn't one i have ever picked up. From what I had heard of the story in school, a very watered down version of the story, I knew that Dorian Gray had a picture in his loft which aged so he could stay beautiful. The trailer I saw made the film look a lot better than it actually was.

                      The film is set in 1850+ and so the way the characters speak is different, but I found that the way things were said, were much further back in time than they should have been, the story ends after the first world war, yet the dress of the people was still stuck in the early 19th century with huge Victorian style dresses, which I thought was a little historically wrong...but maybe that's just me.

                      The film was a little lacking in it's story, I was a bit bored to be honest, and found myself sitting there thinking about other things rather than the film! The acting was brilliant (from Colin Firth as Henry and Ben Barnes as Dorian Gray), but the storyline was quite slow and boring. I think it could have been done in a much better way than it was, I was expecting the story to go over a lot more years than it actually did, but I think that was more to do with my own misconception of the story than the actual story!

                      If you have read the book and want to give the film a go, I would say it is worth a watch, but I certainly wouldn't watch it again, it's not as scary as I thought it was going to be, and could be a little bit confusing in parts too! But ultimately I am glad I watched it as I was intruiged to know what it would be like!

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                      13.02.2010 13:25
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                      Read the book

                      This latest adaption of the classic Oscar Wilde novel is dull and uninspiring and fails completely to convey the eseential relationship between Gray and the portrait that is such a central theme to the book and one that is not developed fully in the film and as such the central meaning of the book is somewhat diluted.

                      Dorian returns to the family home in London after the death of his father to inherit the estate and a local artist called Basil Halliward is comissioned to paint his portrait. Falling into bad company in the form of the womanising Lord Wotton after a drunken evening Wotton brokers the subject offorming a pact with the devil to which Gray responds that he would do such a thing for eternal youth and hence this is what happens through the image of himself in the portrait. Then a series of events unfold that change forever the life of the self indulgent Gray.

                      Visually the film is certainly impressive with its depiction of Victorian England however the whole thing is just too slow moving for my tastes andthere is a lack of any real suspense in the plot development which left me cold and at two hours in length it is far too long with very little actually happening. It is definately acase of style over substance in my opinion.

                      Ben Barnes is competent enough in the lead role and is quite convincing as the bi-sexual man about town who is morally corrupt. The real star of the show however is Colin Firth who is excellent as the slimy womaniser Wotton, he plays the role to the hilt and is good value while on camera.

                      Apart from the performance of Firth I can find little to recommend with this film and as such I would not advise anyone parting with their hard earned cash to see it, instead wait for it to appear on TV and even then you may want to think twice. Better still read the book which is far more interesting.

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                        12.02.2010 23:57

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                        A Good Movie Of A Great Oscar Wilde Story

                        Having missed the opportunity to see this movie on the big screen I couldn't wait to purchase the DVD as soon as it came on general release.
                        I was intrigued to see how one of my favourite books would translate into film. There have been other attempts previously but generally I've been disappointed, with exception of the 1945 version that included George Sanders and Angela Lansbury in the cast.

                        I'm more than happy to report that in my opinion it worked very well. The relatively low key cast (many faces recognised but difficult to place - thank heavens for the IMDB!) did well in their portrayal of Oscar Wilde's dark tale of vanity, I would even say that it just pips the black & white version from the forties. Colin Firth as Lord Henry certainly gives George Sanders a run for his money and Ben Barnes is superb as the initially innocent and easily corrupted Dorian.

                        The setting of Victorian London was suitably dark and seedy, capturing a feel of the old Hammer horror movies of old. The costumes also appeared very accurate for the time and place portrayed.

                        The action unfolds at a decent pace even though the story spans several years. It never seems to drag and I certainly wasn't bored.
                        This movie is scary but not gruesome and relies on a good story without the excess of stomach churning effects that we have grown accustomed to of late. All in all, well worth a watch.

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                        10.02.2010 21:50
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                        The Picture of Dorian Gray Remade

                        A review of just the film, Dorian Gray was released on region 2 DVD in January 2010.

                        When his father dies and leaves him a large and generous estate, Dorian Gray returns to the family home in Victorian London, excited and wondrous at all the things that London has to offer. A local artist named Basil Hallward is commissioned to paint Gray's portrait, and the two men become good friends. At a social banquet, Gray is introduced to Lord Henry Wotton, a philandering cad who spends most of his time in the city's brothels and ale houses. It's not long before Wotton entices Gray into the many temptations that the city has to offer. One night, after another night of drinking, Wotton questions Gray over his willingness to make a pact with the devil. Coinciding with the completion of his portrait, Gray admits that if offered the opportunity to stay youthful forever, he would exchange his soul to the lord of Hell, unaware that through the canvas in front of him, that is exactly what he has just done......

                        The Picture of Dorian Gray was first published in 1890 as a lead story in a famous magazine. The author, Oscar Wilde, later made a number of revisions to the story and eventually published the tale as a novel in 1891. It remains the only novel published by Oscar Wilde and is regarded as a gothic classic, rich in its themes of Faustian morality. To date there have, surprisingly, only been two film adaptations; the classic 1945 version and this, the new version, released in 2009, with the title stripped simply down to the name of the lead character.

                        Produced with the support of the UK Film Council and National Lottery funding, there's a whiff of BBC1 throughout this production and at times you could be forgiven for thinking you had wandered on to the set of a feature-length period drama. That's not entirely surprising, given only that the director, Oliver Parker, has previously cut his teeth on productions of Othello and The Importance of Being Earnest, and there's a reasonably authentic feel to the proceedings, if nothing else. Much attention is lavished upon the costumes, fixtures and fittings of the various film locations and, where required, the special effects and cinematography bring the city of London to life on a scale that normal location filming couldn't permit. Parker's camerawork has a dour, washed out feel to it for the larger part of the film's running time, portraying Victorian London as a seedy, dangerous place to be, the only respite being the occasional trip to the countryside.

                        Following his success in the titular role of the Narnia epic Prince Caspian, British actor Ben Barnes makes a logical choice of the lead here, his fresh-faced, youthful looks epitomising the male beauty with which Gray is associated and his quintessential Britishness enables him to be both shy and enigmatic. It's a difficult and reasonably daring role for the young actor; he has to embark on rather torrid sexual affairs with both men and women during the film's running time and Barnes pushes the role as far as his capabilities will allow. Sadly, this certainly isn't far enough and he always feels rather tame. His youthful looks aside, he lacks any real edge and it gradually becomes apparent that he is more and more uncomfortable with the role. It's difficult to really empathise or even believe his character in any way. The whole point of the story is that Gray undergoes something of a transformation, but Barnes doesn't really convince us in any way at all.

                        It doesn't help that his performance is so starkly in contrast with his leading support, Colin Firth on top form as the roguish Henry Wotton. Firth fairly seems to revel in the mischief of his role and as he explains his (somewhat warped) views on morality, he's a far more convincing cad. Indeed, it is the transformation of Wotton's character that comes across more strongly here and, all things considered, he becomes the more interesting of the two characters by far.

                        Despite its apparent simplicity, the core plot line running throughout the film isn't entirely coherent. Dorian's picture gradually starts to show signs of decay and disfigurement, representing the terrible things that he is doing in real life. It becomes apparent that the picture is aging in place of Gray himself, and as time progresses, Gray fails to age a single day as the generations pass around him. There seems to be no apparent conclusion to this, however. In exchanging his soul for eternal youth, it's never really very clear what the Devil is supposed to get out of the arrangement and with the portrait hidden away in the attic, the situation would seem to be able to go on forever. Indeed, it is really only through acts of incomprehensible stupidity that Gray risks any sort of discovery at all and his worst crime up to a point seems only to be naivety. There are some typically Victorian values running through the film here; the suggestion that drinking and having promiscuous sex is the behaviour only of the most evil of people hardly seems relevant to this day and age and this doesn't help with the plausibility of it all. Furthermore, it becomes clear that the picture isn't just decomposing - it's gradually turning into something and it seems like something that never fulfils its potential within the narrative. Indeed, the appearance of the portrait is kept secret for a large part of the film, only to be revealed as part of the climax in a rather anti-climactic way.

                        The obvious morality of the tale is unlikely to connect with a modern audience and actually feels a little tired. The old adage that 'nothing comes without a price' has been a little over-egged in literary and film history and whilst this may be a modern adaptation, it brings little of any new substance to the table. There's a spattering of gore and some reasonably strong violence (enough to justify a 15-certificate) but it's a very small part of the proceedings and almost seems a little gratuitous; an attempt to support the film's horror tag rather than just releasing it as a period drama. Where it goes wrong, however, is to dwell too far on the visual elements of the story. Engrossed in countless scenes in bedrooms and brothels, it really fails to explain or describe Gray's inner turmoil or to help the audience understand his anguish. It's an entirely superficial film. Gray suddenly seems to regret the mistakes of his life, when, in fact, all we can really see is a man blessed with wealth and immortality - what's not to like? Gray's tumultuous relationships with two leading ladies are certainly the in-roads into this but they just don't seem to have the resonance required to give the film any real impact.

                        So, all in, it's all a visually attractive little number that just doesn't have the substance to do justice to the source material. Barnes looks good but fails to truly convince us of his plight and the connection between the man and the portrait just isn't properly made.

                        Not recommended

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