Dorian Gray

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Dorian Gray
Read our report from the set of the film here

Unlike ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ or ‘An Ideal Husband’, whose Wildean theories are buried deeper beneath their stories, ‘Dorian Gray’ is a book of more explicit, often difficult ideas.

So it’s no surprise that Oliver Parker (‘St Trinians’), in his third Wilde film adaptation, has stripped out some of the more heady debates about art, beauty and the like, not least because he’s aiming for the sort of younger audience attracted by the casting of Ben Barnes (from the recent ‘Narnia’ films) as Gray. So the focus is on the surface narrative of Wilde’s novel: Gray’s ascent in London society on the arm of Lord Henry Wotton (Colin Firth) and his later descent on the arm of his own vanity as he sinisterly fails to age while a youthful portrait of himself in his attic turns into a painting of an elderly ogre.

What newcomer Toby Finlay’s sometimes daring script brings to the party is both a shift in time so that the story ends in the early 1920s and the addition of a possible redemptive love interest in the person of Emily Wotton (Rebecca Hall), Lord Henry’s daughter, and a stick with which the story tries to beat her Machiavellian father for his earlier misdeeds. These are interesting ideas, but they would work better if there was more decadence on show earlier on to nail Gray’s corruption: his initial flights of abandon in the city’s opium dens and brothels are not seedy enough and his rejection of his girlfriend Sybil (Rachel Hurd-Wood) is not as powerful or central as it should be (Hurd-Wood’s acting doesn’t help).

But things look up from the halfway point as Gray’s murder of an associate – and its dreadful effect on him – is claustrophobic enough to convince, and the film is particularly interesting when presenting Dorian as a Victorian out of time, pitching him against the Edwardian age, the car and the suffrage movement. Barnes’s ability to handle his character’s strange psychological journey is limited: he’s upstaged by the painting itself, which doesn’t just age; it putrefies, maggots and all.

Read our report from the set of the film here

By: Dave Calhoun


Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday September 11 2009
Duration: 112 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Oliver Parker
Screenwriter: Toby Finlay
Cast: Ben Barnes
Colin Firth
Rebecca Hall
Johnny Harris
Rachel Hurd-Wood

Average User Rating

3.3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:3
  • 4 star:9
  • 3 star:2
  • 2 star:4
  • 1 star:0
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I just buy the movie, if Dorian is as good as he is in LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMENS with Sean Connery and all, it worth the few $$$ I pay for it... The few previews I saw were awesome...

I just buy the movie, if Dorian is as good as he is in LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMENS with Sean Connery and all, it worth the few $$$ I pay for it... The few previews I saw were awesome...

I made myself read the book before the movie. I have to say, it was actually pretty tame to what I had envisioned for Dorian's "decadence." Although, Barnes was very youthful and charming and though I feel my intelligence to be far too little to really enjoy the book, I don't think it did Wilde justice. I know, two different mediums, but you have to have their spark, so to speak, seep through the movie. It lacked the elegance and the pure biting wit that is often associated with Wilde, for me at least. Though, I do think they did a good job bringing it to a modern generation. And I speak as part of that modern generation. However, there's hardly any movies out there that are better or as good as their book counterparts, so I digress. Plus, there was some eyecandy, so it wasn't ALL bad. ;)

The film was noticeably better than the black and white version which simply did not do me justice at all. And I much preferred Ben playning me than Hurd Hatfield. Pip Pip!

Most people seem to not be enjoying this film but I did. I read the book before I saw the film and thoroughly enjoyed it, Ben Barnes was brilliant as Dorian Gray and made a shiver run down my spine as he played the dark side of Dorian with the public image so brilliantly. Colin Firth was AMAZING! he was perfect in the evil role of Harry Wotton. And Basil was amazing as well I truly felt sorry for him. yes I loved this story even if others didn't.

This film is a complete disaster! The acting is bad, the filming is bad and worst of all, it has ripped to shreds a magnificent piece of literary art written by the great and wonderful Oscar Wilde. I cannot believe this film was allowed to air and I find it disgusting that it even associates itself with the book. Absolutely nothing like the book - the only similarity is the concept of the portrait ageing and Gray not. Totally unrelated in every other way including the fact that some of Wilde's most famous and witty quotes seem to have been erradicated from existence. Very very disappointed in this film - although to be fair I was not expecting much as no man could capture what Wilde was about nowadays. Made me furious to watch as it was turned into a porno almost and it is sad to see what the uneducated masses will watch and enjoy.

Well I have to say, I just didn't get the flm at all. It all seemed pretty pointless. *SPOILER ALERT* I mean, its just a guy who gets mortality, then abuses it a bit, kills a few people, then dies at the end. Whats with that?

Overall I liked this film very much. After initially seeing the posters for it with Ben Barnes glowering down at the camera and sporting the rather unoriginal tag: "Forever young. Forever cursed." I thought it would be very one-dimensional. However, Barnes delivers the goods! From his initial boyish wide-eyed look, to his growing cynicism and bored aspect as the film progresses, I always found him watchable. But the real star of the show is Colin Firth. Perfectly cast as the dastardly Lord Henry, he keeps the film spiralling down into dark, menacing, lustrous horror then picks it up towards the end to give it a more repentant feel. I thought the choice of setting the latter part of the story in the 20s worked extremely well, as did the introduction of Rebecca Hall's vigorously humorous heroine, who offers our doomed anti-hero a shot at redemption that we, the audience, desperately hope will succeed. The direction is assured, with plenty of interesting camera shots and music use (or lack of: the scene where Dorian kills for the first time is almost completely silent, which sends genuine chills down the spine!) although at times the use of quick-cutting shots to emphasise the mechanics of Dorian's mind and his thought process feel a little self-indulgent. The supporting cast are superb, Fiona Shaw and Emilia Fox as women in Lord Henry's life, as well as the excellent Ben Chaplin as Basil, the jealous artist who sees what an effect Henry's corruption is having on Dorian too late to stop it. In the latter half, set 25 years (or so) later, the make-up is truly superb, ramming home the difference between the eternally youthful Dorian and all his old friends, who have withered in his absence. The choice to keep the audience from seeing the painting before the very end, except for a few fleeting glimpses of maggots and creeping decay, is very effective, as it builds up great tension and expectation. Finally, the restrained use of CGI (saving most of it for the end - Dorian's battle with his painting) also adds a touch of finesse to the overall piece, making it all the more shocking when we finally do come to it. Apart from a few minor niggles about costume and Rachael Hurd-Wood's performance as Dorian's initial love interest, this is a faithful yet inventive adaptation of Oscar Wilde's classic that manages to feel a lot longer than 2 hours!

About the only thing Colin Firth looks capable of corrupting you to do is to cheekily reuse some postage stamps or to take several sachets of tomato ketchup from McDonalds. Badly cast. Flat direction. Not a patch on the original- with spfx you could have had the monster in the picture doing bad things and then had the duality of good versus evil/pretty versus ugly/age versus youth. It would have been something. But the film is just plain dull. Alas, it goes into the bottom bin marked "Genova and others".

This is a nice horror film - not a vampire film, but quite an intelligent variation on some of the themes of vampire films. Not all the anticipated twists materialise - and that's good. But some of them do, which is a shame. Still, aesthetically nice, worth watching, with an undercurrent of darkness. ... Comparing it to recent offerings, this was better than Pandorum, but not as good as District 9.

Overlong costume drama with every point hammered home in case it escaped your notice, and which seems even poorer having slept on it for a night. I haven't read Wilde's novel, but preferred the 1945 film adaptation. My wife didn't think much of it either. Colin Firth tries his best and Rebecca Hall is as watchable as ever, but all in all, a turkey, and no mistake.

A pretty boy country lumpkin inherits a London estate and is rapidly led astray into a seductive city of booze and fornication (hmmm looks great fun) - he never grows old but his portrait rots with maggots the more debauched his behaviour. Usual dramatic and daft ending that you can avoid this tat by staying at home.

Truly, truly dreadful film. I can't believe I paid good money to see it! I want a refund! It is certainly the worst film I have seen for a long time. The script shows none of the subtleties or wit of Oscar Wilde's novel, Ben Barnes execells himself at being more wooden than Keanu Reeves and Nickolas Cage put together, in fact the whole casting is atrocious and there aren't even decent sets or costumes to distract you from it all. The overall look of the film is set by what appears to be a significant lack of budget despite what some may say a decent cast. To be fair most of the cast I have seen produce decent work, so one can only blame the director for a film that looks more like a bad student film than a big budget 'blockbuster'. The costumes especially rankled me - complete lack of historical accuracy (Ben Barnes wanders around for a good amount of time wearing a cravat that looks suspiciously like a scarf from topman) and the overall creations are ugly, ungainly and ill fitting. The sex scenes are laughable, and in most cases pretty repulsive. After 45 minutes my boyfriend and I could take no more and walked out. Horrifyingly bad film, Oscar Wilde will be spinning in his grave.

really enjoyed this the music made it creepy and the actors were great, shocking sex scenes but loved it. Colin Firth was a rascal but a good one and the ending kept me guessing look forward to the dvd in the near future to watch this again well done to the cast I say

really enjoyed this the music made it creepy and the actors were great, shocking sex scenes but loved it. Colin Firth was a rascal but a good one and the ending kept me guessing look forward to the dvd in the near future to watch this again well done to the cast I say

I am wondering if people saw the same film as me. Or had ever seen a film before. This was truly, truly dreadful: the sets were naff, the acting (with the exception of Ms Hall) risible, and the story was almost totally unrelated to the novel (the updating to the 20s and creation of the Rebecca Hall character just didn't work at all). Even the portrait didn't age: the canvas mouldered in a CGI way. The 'dramatic' train accident actually had people laughing in my cinema. The scenes of 'debauchery' were your average middle-aged man's fantasy, showing the director's limited imagination. So bad it made me angry. Everyone involved should hang their heads in shame. My nomination for the turkey of the year so far (and I've seen the Harry Potter movie too!) Avoid, avoid, avoid!

Keswick (Cunbria) only has one small, great little cinema and by the time I could get there last night, Dorian Gray was the only film I could fit in. A quick internet search for reviews (including this one) led me to sit down with very low expectations, particularly from Ben Barnes. But guess what - neither Ben Barnes nor the film generally are anything like as bad as some reviewers would have you believe. To cut a long story short, 7 out of 10, with Colin Firth and Rebecca Hall in particular raising the bar, but Ben Barnes can also pick up his pay cheque without a trace of guilt - a very decent performance from him too.

This film was dark and angsty, giving a stark contrast between happeir times. Will keep you thinking about it for hours after!

loved the period drama side - enjoyed Colin Firth's performance

Unlike some reviewers, I found no fault in Ben Barnes' acting, Chaplin was excellent, and Colin Firth splendidly convincing as a "baddie". The dialogue was well up to scratch too. It was the direction that let the whole thing down. The heavy-handed way we were asked to believe that an Egyptian cigarette and a glass of gin were enough to turn a well-intentioned lad up from the country into a committed debauchee in record time was simplistic and pointlessly pedantic; the subway chase was straight out of American Werewolf; and the way the portrait turned into the janitor from Hogwarts on a bad day was frankly risible. Oscar deserves better than this.

Oscar Wilde's novel is a work of pure literary genius, however this film is a monstrosity. The acting was terrible (Rachel Hurd-Wood as Sibyl Vane was exceptionally poor), the script was corny, the plot was almost completely unrelated to the original story, there was no character development or explanation as to character relationships, the time periods were not at al faithful to the novel, and the sole point of this film seemed to be showing as many sex-scenes as possible. A huge disappointment; Wilde must be turning in his grave

A very poor film. Cheap production, lousy acting apart from Colin Firth, a big let down. Don't waste your money.

Like Ron I found this an appallingly bad film, a waste of time and money to see, by way of contrast Fish Tank is excellent and worth seeing with your cash instead. This felt like a made for Playboy TV channel to appease an american market who like their film, script and imagery simple. I went in with an open mind but its pure pulp with some beautiful people and costumes and some ugly cliched poor people. Don't waste your time.

Worth seeing for Rebecca Hall's spirited performance and Colin Firth's versatility. Dark, but the 15 rating means you won't be on the edge of your seat all the time

I cannot believe how bad this film was. It stripped Wilde of all his wit and insight and replaced it with terrible, corny one-liners about "All I need is you" "And nailing your soul with the devil" or some such rubbish. The incredible suspense of Jim Vane's death is replaced by a chase along a tube line for god's sake. This was so bad it was laughable. Read the book, then see how shocking this is.

Not a literal interpretation of the book, with some liberties taken. But the tone and wit are preserved, and it all works well cinematically. Colin Firth and Rebecca Hall both give outstanding performances, and Ben Barnes does enough to give the story some momentum. Definitely worth seeing.

Quite clearly the most promising young screenwriter in years. Well done, Mr. Finlay.

Quite clearly the most promising young screenwriter in years. Well done, Mr. Finlay.

I saw this film in preview followed by the director and scriptwriter and producer talking about their intentions afterwards. For me it was a slightly uneasy mix of period drama with a little Hammer horror gore thrown in.Colin Firth makes a good reprobate with all of Oscar's Wilde's very best lines but its 15 rating means that it is cannot be genuinely decadent enough or scary enough to really convinc3.

Saw this at a preview. A very interesting interpretation of the classic novel. Visually gripping with some tart dialogue. Excellent performances, especially by Firth. Overall, much better than I expected.