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The Happy Prince
4/5
dir-scr Rupert Everett
prd Sebastien Delloye, Philipp Kreuzer, Jorg Schulze
with Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Colin Morgan, Edwin Thomas, Emily Watson, Antonio Spagnuolo, John Standing, Ronald Pickup, Tom Wilkinson, Anna Chancellor, Julian Wadham, Beatrice Dalle
release UK 15.Jun.18, US 5.Oct.18
18/UK Lionsgate 1h45
The Happy Prince
Friends to the end: Firth and Everett

morgan watson wilkinson

the happy prince
Rupert Everett and
The Happy Prince

Chatting with the actor-filmmaker
about his Wilde passion project

SUNDANCE FILM FEST
BERLIN FILM FEST
flare film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Happy Prince With lush, deep production design, this film traces the last three troubled years in Oscar Wilde's life. It's a swirlingly artful approach, shifting around in time to paint a vivid, emotionally charged portrait of a shattered man trying to stoke the embers of his once-grand life. And he's beautifully played by Rupert Everett, who also makes a notable debut as a writer-director.

In 1895, Oscar Wilde (Everett) is the most famous man in England. So his conviction on homosexuality charges is a major scandal. After two years in prison, he heads for France with friends Reggie and Robbie (Firth and Thomas). But he can't get young Bosie (Morgan) out of his head, and runs off with him to Italy. This is the last straw for his patient wife Constance (Watson), who cuts him off financially. Now in poverty, Oscar moves to Paris, where he reunites with Robbie, who helps him when he falls ill after an injury.

Everett's layered approach to filmmaking overcomes what's essentially a limited narrative. The film basically traces Wilde's slow, painful winding down as he loses his reputation, home, family, friends, wealth and health. It's not a particularly easy journey to take, but Everett continually finds both humour and artistry, revealing bon vivant attitudes in snappy conversations between people who are obsessed with beauty. And he cleverly weaves in Wilde's eponymous fairy tale throughout the narrative.

This also gives Everett a chance to shine as an actor, contorting his own physicality with a hulking body shape and jowly face. But in his eyes, there's plenty of spark. In his mid-40s, Wilde should be at his prime, but he's been harshly battered by society and people, all of whom should adore him, and he knows it. As his most loyal friends, Firth and Thomas have some lovely scenes of their own, as does Morgan as the more prickly Bosie. And in flickering side scenes, Watson is superb as always, even though Constance's story seems kind of wedged in here.

Meanwhile, every frame is a striking combination of thematic richness and luxuriant design, accompanied by a glorious Gabriel Yared score. It's the story of one of the most shameful moments in British history, and it would take some 70 years before they learned to stop destroying their brightest and best (see also The Imitation Game). And most movingly, Everett reminds us that, even as his life was waning, Wilde continued to offer uncanny observations on the human spirit.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 27.Mar.18

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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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