Filmmakers like writers to be notorious, mad or dead, and 20 years ago Joe Orton ticked all those boxes for Stephen Frears and Alan Bennett. In a tatty post-war London of the mid-1960s, Orton (Gary Oldman) wrote subversive plays, gleefully crusied the toilets of Islington and, in 1967, was bludgeoned to death by his boyfriend, the bald, highly strung Kenneth Halliwell (Alfred Molina). It this event that frames Frears’ film, which Bennett adapted from John Lahr’s 1980 biography and which focuses on Orton’s relationship with Halliwell, from their meeting at RADA to their claustrophoboic existence in a north London flat via prosecution for defacing library books and a fucking spree in Morocco. Its intensity and humour are punctuated unnecessarily by scenes of Lahr (Wallace Shawn) researching his book with the help of Orton’s agent, (Vanessa Redgrave). Oldman is brilliant; Molina’s Halliwell less subtle (though a pleasingly haughty failure against his lover’s quiet, cheeky success, with shades of ‘Withnail and I’); and the film’s dissection of cottaging quaintly amusing. Expect little on Orton’s writing; this is literary tittle-tattle. Watch out for a brief, uncredited cameo from Derek Jarman.
|Release date:||Friday April 6 2007|
Cast and crew