PRINCELY: Rupert Everett stars and directs this biopic of Oscar Wilde’s last days.

The Happy Prince

  • Drama biopic; Cert M, contains offensive language, nudity, drug use and sexual references; 1hr 35mins
  • Starring: Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Emily Watson, Colin Morgan, Edwin Thomas, Tom Wilkinson, Anna Chancellor and Julian Wadham
  • Director: Rupert Everett

OSCAR Wilde’s life reads much like a Victorian novel – full of barely-contained angst, social injustice and revulsion of the “love that dare not speak its name”.

Written, directed and starred in by Rupert Everett this is clearly a work of passion. His depiction of Wilde is unflinchingly honest and straight-forward and portrays the 19th century poet and playwright with not an ounce of sugar-coating.

The film outlays Wilde’s pederasty bleakly but without judgement. Convicted for “gross indecency” by a London court in 1895 over his love affair with the son of the Marquess of Queensbury’s son, who was 21 at the time of their meeting, Wilde never fully recovered from his two years of hard labour in prison.

Though the film explores Wilde’s early life, it is mainly as flashbacks as the story flows around moments over the course of the man’s final years in exile in France and Italy.

Reviled by his peers and spat at and beaten by contemporaries on both sides of the English Channel, Wilde went by an assumed name until his death at the age of 46 in Paris.

Everett’s portrayal shows an extremely charismatic figure. Despite his poor treatment of friends and loves, especially of his long-suffering wife and mother of their two sons, Jane Wilde (nee Elgee), Wilde managed to inspire great loyalty from those close to him.

When a penniless Lady Wilde was dying from bronchitis, despite the stain upon her name she attempted to reach out to Oscar who was still in prison. The request was refused by the State.

If not for excerpts from The Happy Prince wafting in and out of the dialogue, this biography might be one of the starkest and less flattering homages ever made.

As acerbic and unlikeable as he may have been, Wilde’s contribution to literature and his struggle for acceptance of homosexuality remain a guiding light of human endeavour.

9/10

mark.rieder@thebeacon.co.nz