By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
When some people think of Oscar Wilde, they automatically think of his talent and contributions to literature and theater. This film focuses on his sad and tragic last days. The victim of a prejudiced witch hunt, Wilde’s career came to a crashing halt when he was sent to prison for his gay lifestyle. Though this film offers a rather poignant and unsettling portrait of a man broken by prejudice, it spends way too much time wallowing in pity and not enough time celebrating his tremendous talent. Still, the main reason to watch this movie, is to behold the superb performance by Rupert Everett who is phenomenal and nearly unrecognizable as Wilde.
Upon his release from prison, Oscar Wilde desperately hopes to return to some semblance of his former life. Feeling repentant for his extracurricular activities as a gay man, Wilde initially wishes to return to his wife Constance (Emily Watson) and their two sons. However, his wife cannot bring herself to forgive Oscar, and other friends are so few in number. This lack of love and support leads Wilde down a dark hole of self-medicating and excess from which he can never return.
Written and directed by Everett, The Happy Prince is an affecting film which addresses the anti-gay prejudice which lead to Oscar Wilde’s decline and eventual death. Everett, who wrote, directed and starred in the film has made a decent movie with some truly amazing scenes that are solidly written and exceptionally performed. During the last part of his life, Oscar Wilde fell into a period of self-loathing and self-pity and I feel that the film spends a little too much time in this mindset. I feel that a more balanced portrait of the artist would have had a much stronger impact.
Still, this film is truly a remarkable one to experience. Rupert Everett’s amazing performance as Wilde is bothcaptivating and heartbreaking. I feel that he has a strong chance of receiving some attention during awards season. The movie also features great work by Colin Firth, Colin Morgan, Edwin Thomas and Emily Watson. All of whom are wonderful on screen.
Though it certainly isn’t feel good material, The Happy Prince is definitely a film worth watching. For those unfamiliar with the life of Oscar Wilde, I must recommend seeing it. As long as prejudice of any kind exists, films like this one will always be relevant. This movie is another reminder that prejudice can have tragic repercussions to those affected by it.