Wilde for sure got, ahem, wild.
After serving a grueling jail-sentence for what were called “homosexual activities”, famed-playwright poet and playwright Oscar Wilde (Rupert Everett) returns to civilization in hopes of living out his final years in total and complete happiness. After all, his body is getting worse and with that, so is the rest of his life; his friends have abandoned him, people taunt him in the streets, and his riches, well, aren’t really there. Basically, he’s living out his golden years, anything but that, however, he gets a new lease on life when he meets the ravishingly handsome Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas (Colin Morgan), who shares some of the same interests as Wilde. Together, the two hit it off and not only do they reconsider their lives, but what they want to do together and whether or not they feel strong enough to be who they want to be, when they want to be, and how they want to be.
The Happy Prince is so clearly a passion-project of Rupert Everett’s and with good reason: The man wasn’t just born to play Wilde, but he seems like the right person to write, direct and produce said story, too. In a way, it can be perceived as a vanity-project for Everett to have fun, dress-up in fancy clothes, run around, hang out with his friends, and do it all while still somehow getting paid, but it’s much less cynical than that. It’s instead a movie about a guy that Everett clearly idolizes and adores, yet for some reason, can’t seem to make a good movie out of.
Which is fine, I guess, since we’ve already got a much better movie of Oscar Wilde with Stephen Fry’s Wilde from 1998. That movie, while not perfect and suffering from the fact that it was trying to appeal to a larger audience, still gave us a lot of insight into the person of who Wilde was, why he was the way he was, the people he hung around, fell for, and why everyone seemed to love him so much. It also focused on the sad stuff, the heartbreak, the tragedy, the constant homophobia from people who still went to see his plays, and the undying rage that boiled within him, when he wasn’t creating something.
The Happy Prince is only interested in this part, really – the sadness, the depression, and the misery of what Oscar Wilde’s life would eventually become.
Which is fine, as far as biopics go, I guess; we don’t get the whole life’s work of Wilde, but instead, the later-years of his life, which he spent mostly alone, in-exile, and near-bankruptcy. It’s sad, sure, but it’s also interesting already because we don’t usually see biopics tackle this kind of part in someone’s life and give it the full-attention and focus. But of course, by doing this, Everett shows that even those who are larger-than-life, can also have a final chapter with life and go out in a way that’s not nearly as lovely, or as glamorous as the life that preceded them was.
Once again, it’s sad stuff and that’s really all there is to it. Everett as Wilde is perfect, that’s not hard to assume because Everett’s always great and Oscar Wilde is the one where it makes perfect sense. But he’s really all there is to the movie; everyone else sort of shows up for a few minutes, does their things, and leaves, giving their own two cents to Everett’s movie and helping him out any way that they can. It’s a sweet bit of love from friends to one another, but it doesn’t do much to help the Happy Prince be, oh I don’t know, compelling, or really all that interesting to watch. It usually just stays sad and depressing, the whole way through, and there comes a point when all of that has to get brushed aside for even some small glimmers of hope.
If not, really, then what’s the point?
There is none, you say?
Damn. Never mind.
Consensus: For a directorial debut, Rupert Everett decides to take a risk with the Happy Prince, but also can’t help but fall in the same traps of loving and adoring his subject a tad too much.
5.5 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Sony Pictures Classics