You would think that turning an Oscar Wilde novel into a sensationalized, nearly exploitative camp piece of pulp fiction might prove impossible, but Oliver Parker would prove you wrong; shamefully so, seeing as how his adaptations of other Wilde works, like An Ideal Husband (1999) or The Importance of Being Earnest (2002), have been rightly lauded. Even more amazing, Dorian Gray failed to find a distributor in the United States, and was doomed to a direct-to-DVD release here, after a theatrical release in the United Kingdom. As it stands, though, Dorian Gray is all about the atmosphere in this version, rather than the preservation of Wilde’s wit or the story itself. It’s unfortunate, but that’s what we’re left with at the end of the film; lots of pomp, but very little circumstance.
Honestly, it might be more accurate to consider this as a prequel to Stephen Norrington’s 2003 Alan Moore adaptation The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Of course, this is an adaptation of the 1891 Oscar Wilde novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, but so little is done to honor the work that it seems cruel to connect the two. The ideas behind the two frames remain the same, but the results are entirely different. Dorian Gray (Ben Barnes), a youthful man of twenty or so, inherits a fortune after his father passes away. With that fortune comes the posh lifestyle of the early 20th century and a slew of new friends, the most important of which proves to be a man named Henry Wotton (an excellent Colin Firth), who teaches young Dorian to not be afraid of pleasure in all its forms, and another named Basil Hallward (Ben Chaplin), who paints a wonderful portrait of Dorian and wishes to put it on display. Of course, he can’t. Why? Because the Dorian in the picture ages, rather than Dorian himself, and the life Dorian is leading – a life bitter with corruption and decadence – isn’t to kind to him. Read More