The Happy Prince


The Happy Prince ★ 1/2

Limited to a couple of hours of screen time, filmed biographies tend to work best when the focus on their subjects is narrowed to a specific window of time, rather than dramatizing a person’s life from the cradle to the grave. The trick is finding the best moment to focus on. In the case of Oscar Wilde, I wouldn’t have guessed that the final, destitute and disease-stricken years of the once-popular poet and playwright would have made for a great choice, given how celebrated the work he produced in his younger years was, from his epigrams to his Gothic novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. Yet another key to a biopic’s success is casting, and at 59, actor Rupert Everett is already 13 years older than the Irishman was when he died. Despite this, the obvious passion that Everett brought to this project (he also penned the screenplay and debuts as a director) imbues it with life, even as Wilde slips away, dying from meningitis. Everett clearly knows his subject, having starred in screen adaptations of the author’s An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest, not to mention his time spent onstage playing Wilde in a revival of David Hare’s The Judas Kiss. And although some fleeting triumphs are shown for Wilde, such as the flashbacks to Earnest’s opening night, the movie takes place primarily between his 1897 release from a 2-year prison sentence for his homosexuality, to his final, bedridden days in 1900. Nevertheless, Everett’s Wilde projects great warmth and humor, even during the darkest of days, aided by John Conroy’s sumptuous cinematography and Gabriel Yared’s achingly lovely score. (At Kendall Square and West Newton.)

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