Now available on DVD
Directed by Oliver Parker
I’m not entirely sure what they were going for with yet another tale of Dorian Gray, but I do know that they certainly weren’t pandering to horror fans when they made it because it lacks any real horror elements outside some blood splattering here and there and ominous music droning throughout.
Instead it contains a multitude of people smoking, lame nonsensical orgies, dead fish bisexual fantasies and a rather mundane love story that really gets lost in the muck of all the other shenanigans going on.
Sure the basic concept is here: A young man gets a lifelike self portrait and suddenly never ages, never gets hurt. But the delivery of this classic tale is aloof and altogether whiny. In fact, Dorian (Ben Barnes) is so whiny in the first 30 minutes of the film (and ridiculously over-the-top naÃ¯ve) you have nothing but contempt for him even before he becomes a total douchebag and starts killing people.
What little love story we are given is so contrived and rushed at one moment you meet Dorian’s first love Sibyl (Rachel Hurd-Wood) and the next thing you know they are living together. There is no love story. There’s one scene with them getting their groove on, another with them fighting, and then Sibyl kills herself over a broken heart. Yet, we are expected to believe this relationship was important to Dorian despite the fact that when she kills herself he maybe utters “meh” and moves on.
Plus, it is absurd that when Dorian figures out that the painting is absorbing any damage or age that is inflicted upon him, it is as if a coin is flipped and he goes from this whiner to a sex-crazed idiot screwing anything â and I do mean anything â in his sight. There’s no build-up. No tension or development of the character. It is literally in one frame he’s this timid, whining bitch and in the next frame he’s having multiple threesome with whores and high brow late-1800 century MILFs.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with trying to redo something that’s already been done a dozen times over (although logically you’d think you’d want to go in a different direction) but at least make it fresh, interesting and surprising. Dorian Gray does none of this. To make matters worse, the original story and all of its lengthy context was thrown in the garbage so that they could make way for more senseless orgies that are so artsy-fartsy we don’t even get any real good nudity (how dare they!).
Another point of order is the low-brow acting, especially be Barnes who looks confused half the time on screen. I give props to Colin Firth as he was the high point in the film as the shady, scumbag businessman friend to Dorian but I’m sure he was wondering just what the hell he had gotten into during production but accept his check anyway. It just adds up to another ill-conceived adaptation that fails on multiple levels.
While the film itself leads a lot to be desired, I’ll give it this: It looks great. The costumes and period sets are extremely well done and on Blu-ray this comes across that much more. The high definition cut of Dorian Gray is perfect, devoid of any flaws or blemishes at all and the picture jumps at you from the screen making those period pieces all the better. It is just a shame the film isn’t deserving of such treatment.