His 19th century looks are sterling, the vintage photography crisp and soothing, and the costumes look exceedingly beautiful and elegant. Has Rupert Everett mastered Oscar Wilde, both behind and in front of the camera? The English actor both penned and directed the Happy Prince, plus he also stars as the film’s protagonist.
The story starts in Paris, where an impoverished and ill Oscar Wilde is recovering from his prison stint in England, after being found guilty of gross indecency. His love affair with Lord Alfred Bosie Douglas and unrepentant attitude in court had shocked the country. He is now seeking to indulge in small acts of pleasure and hedonism in France and Italy, as his health fades and the end is increasingly nigh, it seems. He’s a man desperately seeking redemption through sex and beauty.
The film proposes to revisit Wilde’s very final days, as “desire and loyalty face off, the transience of lust is laid bare, and the true riches of love are revealed”. Everett embraced a mammoth task and a huge responsibility. Wilde is a subversive genius far ahead of his time, and there is no shortage of films, TV series and books about him. Will the English actor (who’s also gay himself) have anything new and fresh to say about the poet, or will he just slip into the same old cliched platitudes about “the love that dare not speak its name”? The trailer suggests a very conventional biopic. But has the -thespian-scribe-helmer perhaps infused his latest film with little dirty flavours?
The film features a top-drawer cast, including Colin Firth, Emily Watson, Colin Morgan and Edwin Thomas.
The Happy Prince premiered earlier this year at the BFI Flare London LGBT Film Festival. It is out in the best cinemas across the UK on Friday, June 15th.