Country: UK, Germany, Japan
Genre: Biography, Drama
Director: Brian Gilbert
Music: Debbie Wiseman
Cinematography: Martin Fuhrer
Rarely in Stephen Fry’s prolific career, such a tailor-made role for him, and he is the leading actor in this biopic of Oscar Wilde, the 19th century Irish author, poet and playwright, whom he resembles not just in physical appearance, but personality and gift as well.
Directed by Brian Gilbert, the follow-up after TOM & VIV (1994), WILDE is a lush period drama, where Fry’s representation of Wilde is purely magnificent, sympathetic and pleasing with a tender soul inside his bulky facade, from his principled marriage with Constance (Ehle), the homosexual foray with Robbie Ross (Sheen), to meet the love of his life Bosie Douglas (Law), a doted aristocrat whose stunning pulchritude and youthfulness toxically enchants Wilde for the rest of his life, till his downfall in imprison after losing the libel case and the subsequent trial of sodomy and gross indecency prosecuted by Marquess of Queensberry (Wilkinson), the abominable father of Bosie. Like the warm voiceover of Wilde’s own short story THE SELFISH GIANT whenever the story draws in with Oscar’s interactions with his two young sons, Wilde is the giant, who is destined to suffer from the wounds of love, again, Fry’s performance is unarguably the film’s strongest suit, notably his speech about “the unspeakable love” during the court scenes.
Oscar Wilde’s astonishing talent and homosexuality are two sides of his personae, as one might expect, the film follows suit in exploring the more sensational latter, while the former can only be glanced through his witty loquaciousness and the aforementioned court speech, truly, the gay melodrama is what audience ask for, only if we could also given some leeway to enter his kingdom as a writer. Then the drama, Bosie is viewed as a capricious, needy, ungrateful and selfish good-for-nothing, who is the undoing of Oscar Wilde’s tragedy, ended with an early death in destitute. There is unequalled devotion between them, which Wilde is not too blind to notice, but his naivety, a common characteristic among great artists, convinces him that Bosie is a spoilt boy who needs love wantonly and inordinately, and he is willing to do whatever he asks, and eventually comes down from his high horse and becomes a convenient lever utilised in the detrimental father-son retaliation between Bosie and his father. Fry gives a sympathetic performance, but for Wilde, we can only assume that he has only himself to blame, meanwhile, the film makes Robbie, his sole loyal friend in his last days, watch the doom befalls on the one he loves, they would make a much better match, only if Wilde could be more sensible in his mind (takes the gargoyle-looking over the pretty boy), that’s the typical gambit for a melodrama, as if that happens so common in real life.
Jennifer Ehle, who REALLY should play Meryl Streep in a biopic, is the benevolent but tormented wife who marries a closeted gay man, but instead of hatred and complaint, her support of Wilde, defiance against the convention, even in his lowest moment is a shining beacon in this biopic, Ehle elicits amazing nuance in it. This is the very first role introduces Jude Law into the international cinema, where his Adonis attractiveness would peak two years later in Anthony Minghella’s THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY (1999), in WILDE, he is less refined but incredibly right up Bosie’s rally, an amoral, wayward snob, a self-seeker banks on his vainglory, so is Wilkinson as his father, a showstopper with his boorish umbrage, like father, like son, indeed, one might protest the upper society doesn’t get a fair treatment in the movie, but de facto, they are the last bunch on earth who needs a sentimentally sympathetic response from the mass, so, whatever, R.I.P. Mr. Wilde.