Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dorian Gray

(2009) ***1/2

Young Dorian Gray arrives in London, having just inherited his Grandfather's estate and wealth. He is taken in and shown around by two men, Basil, a good, kind-hearted, sensitive artist who paints a portrait of Dorian, and Henry, a sophisticated gentleman on the outside who likes to pass the time away in whore-houses, opium dens, etc. Through some kind of eerie providence, Dorian learns early that any and all physical damage comitted to his physical self is manifested only in his portrait, while Dorian himself stays forever young. This invincibility leads him to further indulge his tastes in drink, drugs, and all the other Victorian decadencies that Oscar Wilde's fans loved to read about.

These would be the "exotic" women.

I haven't read Oscar Wilde's book, The Picture of Dorian Gray, but my wife read it earlier this year and told me this film is actually a pretty faithful adaptation. The cast is fantastic to begin with. Colin Firth does well playing Henry, the debaucerous villain. Ben Chaplin's work as Basil, trying to steer Dorian away form iniquity shows a sadness and frustration that complement Dorian's character. And finally, Rebecca Hall (from The Town and Vicky Cristina Barcelona) doesn't hide her British accent here, and it's lovely.

So, from a literary perspective, it's a fine adaptation. From a horror persepective, it still delivers! The portrait and its control over Dorian is well done and serves as a source of suspense for the viewer that really kept me glued for its two-hour run time. And, not to spoil it, but when we see this portrait come to life, it is well worth the wait.

Beyond a number of Vincent Price's '60s and '70s horror films, the "Brit flick" is not particularly well known for its horror genre the way Japanese films are. Still, Dorian Gray shows that they may have potential.


JPX said...

Cool, I'm so happy to hear that this is good. For some reason I've sat on this film for years but never get inspired to throw it into the old DVD player. I remember enjoying the book but of course recall nothing about it. Next year, next year...

Catfreeek said...

Me too, it's been sitting in my queue but the cover picture puts me off for some reason.