Wild about Wilde
Richard Ellman wrote an unconventional biography of Oscar Wilde which looks at the brilliant, witty and tragic life of the Irishman who died a shameless death and has only recently been reinstated to the world of literary accomplishment. This book was in turn made into a wonderful movie which gives us Wilde’s rise to fame as an in-demand author and public speaker to his downfall and imprisonment because of his homosexuality. Stephen Fry is amazing as Wilde. Portraying the author as he takes a wife, despite his own sexual bent, and producing children, Wilde comes across even more enigmatic than before. It was while he was married that Wilde discovers his true sexual identity and this leads to a very public affair with the vain and rebellious Lord Alfred Douglas (Jude Law and yes he gets naked). Wilde’s private life leads him to downfall and puts him in prison on the charge of “gross indecency”, a term for homosexuality at the time.
“Wilde” is a solid and stolid drama about Oscar Wilde, after realizing his homosexuality, Wilde goes through a series of lovers until he finally settles on the pouty, spoiled and good-looking Lord Alfred. With this union, all hell broke loose and this intelligent movie shows the trials and tribulations of one of the world’s wittiest authors. Brian Gilbert’s direction makes Wilde come beautifully alive in a movie not easily forgotten.
So what is different about this movie as compared to others about Wilde? It shows his creativity, his genius, his obsessions, and his downfall in a tragically beautiful way. It is literate and superior to anything that has come before it and will likely remain a milestone for those who want to learn more about the man. The ironic twist showing Lord Douglas convincing his lover to bring a libel suit ageist his father knowing it is doomed to fail seems to show the whole conviction of Wilde in a new light and that it was Wilde’s pride which lead him to self-destruction.
Wilde’s attraction to Lord Douglas was the catalyst for his doom. It was this relationship that would destroy his career, his family, his health yet even after it was all done, Wilde returned to Douglas. What was the reason for such appeal? The movie shows it to be a combination of masochism and romanticism. Jude Law’s portrayal of Douglas is painful—not the acting, the character. He is a rebellious adolescent who is extremely handsome and sometimes charming. His temper tantrums and verbal attacks against Wilde simply made the author love him even more.
Little is held back in this wonderful film. We see Wilde and Douglas in male brothels and we se Wilde engaging in voyeuristic habits. Wilde is shown as a father who was too much into his own work to pay attention to his children and he refused to publicly admit that he was homosexual and because of this he was doomed to disgrace.
As Wilde, Fry is marvelous—vulnerable and scathing. He showed that even though he knew that his relationship with Douglas would come to no good, he was powerless to resist the man. He captures Wilde’s poise and sheer imposing physical appearance. Law is hypnotizing as Douglas and as much as you want not to like him, you can see what Wilde loved him so. In depicting the shadow side of yearning, “Wilde” becomes a classic study of a great Irish writer.