Film Review: Wilde (1997)
Wilde (1997) – IMDb
I saw this film for the first time over the weekend, drawn to it I’m ashamed to say for the fact that it contained Orlando Bloom’s debut appearance, all one line of it. I was pleasantly surprised to discover Jude Law as Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas as well, making this film highly appealing to the voyeurs of the world.
Oscar Wilde (Stephen Fry) is a married writer who has occasionally indulged his weakness for male suitors. After much toil, Wilde debuts a stage comedy in London, and a chat at the theater with Lord Alfred
Twitter is the main social media network that I use and for all its benefits, there are many negative aspects. Social media has proved to be an avenue for people to voice their opinions no matter how hateful. There are many targets for hate and among them are those individuals that are part of the LGBTQ+ community, people who wish to live their lives and be who they truly are without fear of condemnation or persecution. It should be easy but it is anything but. Societies across the globe seem to have a pre-determined expectation of men and women. It’s something I will never understand. There are so many things in this world that we need to focus our energy on. Directing hate, anger and even violence towards people who simply wish to be themselves is inhumane and the dream is that one day this will be a thing of the past. In Brian Gilbert’s 1997 film, Wilde, we have such a tale of hate against one man wishing to live life his way.
Wilde tells the story of celebrated Irish poet and playwright, Oscar Wilde (Stephen Fry), whose literary accomplishments include The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). The film begins in 1882 with Wilde delivering a lecture in Colorado and entertaining the crowds there. Well-dressed, witty and flamboyant, Oscar Wilde wanders society and mixes with people from all walks of life, his gift for wordplay helping him prove very popular. All seems to be going well for Wilde: he is married to Constance (Jennifer Ehle), has two children and his writing career is bringing in good money. Complications begin to arise for Wilde though, first with a young Canadian named Robbie (Michael Sheen), but more crucially with a poet, Lord Alfred Douglas (Jude Law). Both men form the catalyst for Oscar Wilde that awakens within him a buried desire, one that gradually comes to the surface. In a 19th century society that is very particular about how men and women should behave, Wilde realises he is gay and has to decide whether to suppress who he really is or be true to himself, whatever the consequences.
Oscar Wilde is a writer whose work I need to explore further. I have read The Picture of Dorian Gray which is a terrific book about ageing and the vanity of youth. At 2 hours, Wilde manages to pack a lot into its narrative. The focal point is, of course, Stephen Fry who glows as Oscar Wilde. Handsome, charming, splendidly dressed, Fry delivers an excellent performance, conveying Wilde’s unquestionable talent for words and quick wit, but also exploring his inner battles over his sexuality and the price he knows he has to pay simply to be himself. It is a cruel and terrible quandary he finds himself in. Ehle, Law and Sheen provide excellent support to Fry as a trio of individuals that prove pivotal to his life and career. Anyone familiar with the story of Oscar Wilde will know how this tale takes a very sad turn towards the end. One is left full of anger and sadness by the film’s conclusion but grateful to have been given a window into the life of a truly great writer, one who deserved much better from society.
Verdict: A well-acted and poignant biopic of a truly great writer that managed to shine brightly in a society determined to stifle him.