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United Kingdom 2009
Directed by
Oliver Parker
107 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Dorian Gray

"The Picture of Doraian Gray", Oscar Wilde’s famous novel about a young man who abandons himself to a life of pleasure, if far from being a great work of literary art, demonstrates the author's considerable moral insight. Already filmed in 1945 by Albert Lewin, this adaptation does the original text justice only losing its grip in the later stages when it indulges in some rather incongruous conventional horror/thriller devices.

Ben Barnes plays Dorian Gray, a wide-eyed young man who inherits a fortune and falls under the spell of Henry Wotton (Colin Firth), wit and bon vivant, whose pose of depravity unduly impresses Gray. Wotton’s friend, Basil Hallward (Ben Chaplin), paints a sensational portrait of Gray who makes a secret pact so that the portrait bears the stains of his sins whilst he remains untainted.

This devil's pact was a brilliant conceit on Wilde’s part and Oliver Parker, who is something of a Wilde specialist (he directed An Ideal Husband in 1999 and The Importance of Being Earnest in 2002), bar some unnecessary physical violence and arguably the distracting introduction of a new character, Wooton’s grown-up daughter (played by Rebecca Hall), does an excellent job of bringing the story to the screen.

Firth, tossing off Wilde's barbed aphorisms with cynical asperity is first class as the manipulative and in essence chronically bored Wotton, whose love of cleverness starts all the trouble, providing a solid ballast for Barnes's lighter-weight talents. With first class art direction and costume design and Parker’s stylish direction, Dorian Gray is a fine addition to the catalogue of late Victorian era psychological horror.

Available from: Village Roadshow




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