Wilde could easily have been nothing more than another well-dressed literary film from the British costume drama stable, but thanks to a richly textured performance from Stephen Fry in the title role, it becomes something deeper--a moving study of how the conflict between individual desires and social expectations can ruin lives. Oscar Wilde's writing may be justifiably legendary for its sly, barbed wit, but Wilde the film is far from a comedy, even though Fry relishes delivering the great man's famous quips. It takes on tragic dimensions as soon as Wilde meets Lord... Alfred Douglas, known as Bosie, the strikingly beautiful but viciously selfish young aristocrat who wins Oscar's heart but loses him his reputation, marriage and freedom. Fry is brilliant at capturing how the intensity of Wilde's love for Bosie threw him off balance, becoming an all-consuming force he was unable to resist. Jude Law expertly depicts both Bosie's allure and his spitefully destructive side, there are subtle supporting performances from Vanessa Redgrave, Jennifer Ehle and Zoe Wanamaker, and the period trappings are lavishly trowelled on. But this is Fry's show all the way: from Oscar the darling of theatrical London to Wilde the prisoner broken on the wheel of Victorian moralism, he doesn't put a foot wrong. It feels like the role he was born to play. --Andy Medhurst [show more]
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