The month-old trailer for Oliver Parker‘s Dorian Gray (which played twice last weekend at TIFF, is currently running in the UK, but has no US distributor or release date) makes it quite clear that the film does everything it can to coarsen and vulgarize and make sticky with blood Oscar Wilde‘s original 1891 novel. Which is why I didn’t even flirt with the idea of seeing it here.
It should therefore come as no surprise that the 9.15 review by Variety‘s Todd McCarthy says that Parker “takes a meat cleaver to Wilde’s work [with] a film as coarse and crude as its source material is refined and sublime.
“To paraphrase the great Irish scribe himself, the picture is a monstrous corruption [that’s] more at home stylistically in the bloody vicinity of Elm Street or Hammer Studios than in the loftier realms of distinguished literary adaptations, film festivals or the earlier incarnation of Ealing Studios.
“There are three good things in this latest version of Wilde’s only novel: Colin Firth, who tosses off the vast majority of the script’s appropriated witticisms with seasoned aplomb; Rebecca Hall, who singlehandedly revives the moribund enterprise with a jolt of vitality in the final reels; and the painting itself, which is stunningly rendered.
“Otherwise, Parker goes for the jugular, literally, splashing blood all around the famous story of an exquisite young man whose devil’s bargain allows him to retain his beauty and lead a life of depraved debauchery while his portrait ages hideously in an attic. It’s as if the director envisioned a companion piece to Sweeney Todd, but with a porno-worthy synth score rather than Stephen Sondheim.”