Sunday Mar 29
TheatricalThe Voices (2014)
20/03/2015 | Nikki Baughan

That women exist primarily to support men on their journey through life is an outdated patriarchal impulse that unfortunately continues to inform the majority of modern filmmaking. It is pandered to particularly luridly in The Voices, where all female characters - whether full-bo [ ... ]


TheatricalA Second Chance (2014)
20/03/2015 | Nikki Baughan

While Susanne Bier's latest may share similar themes with her previous work, Serena, not least the extreme behaviours born out of desperation and the life-changing nature of parenthood, the two could not be more different in their approach. With Serena, Bier's freedom of expressi [ ... ]


More Theatrical Reviews

Dorian Gray (2009)

Theatrical

The ugly truth...

Oscar Wilde's 1891 novel The Picture of Dorian Gray has long proved a source of inspiration for film-makers across the globe, from the 1945 classic named after the novel to the 2003 actioner The Leaue of Extraordinary Gentlemen, in which the character appeared as a minor player. The original novel's aesthetic may be pure 19th century gothic, but its themes of desire and mortality remain of universal fascination; so it is that we are presented with the latest in a long line of Gray adaptations.

This retelling is directed by Oliver Parker, who has a history with bringing classic works of literature to the big screen having previously helmed Othello (1995), An Ideal Husband (2002) and The Importance of Being Earnest (2002). He was also behind last year's raucous St Trinian's rehash, which may give you an early clue as to what to expect here.

Ben Barnes adds another floppy haired hearthrob string to his acting bow - following similar turns in Stardust, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and Easy Virtue - as Dorian, the young lad who comes, fresh-faced and innocent, into the heaving bosom of 19th century London. Meeting Lord Harry Wotton (Colin Firth), Dorian is introduced to the idea of debauchery as entertainment. When painter Basil Hallward (Ben Chaplin) captures the young man's beauty in a highly lauded painting, Dorian sees just how good he looks on canvas and, clearly having never heard of Botox, he declares that he would sell his soul to look that good forever. Hey presto the deal is done, and Dorian realises that he can live a live of hedonism, whores and homicide without consequence - well, besides the painting going a bit mouldy. Several decades later, however, and he's discovering just how high a price he's having to pay for immortality...

That the entire premise hangs on the character of Dorian is undoubtedly this film's fatal flaw; Barnes may have a boyband charm but it's unlikely anyone over the age of 14 will understand why every single person he encounters, whether male or female, is enamoured by his beauty to the point of hysteria. And he doesn't provide the emotional range needed to embue the story with the psychological depths it requires - despite the film's many, and samey, sequences of Dorian behaving badly, the narrative lives or dies not in its action, but in its introspection. The true nature of unchecked desire is never truly explored and, by the time Dorian realises what he has become, and Barnes actually showcases some dramatic muscle, it's too little, too late.

Parker, too, has concentrated on the oppulent look and visual gimmicks at the expense of exploring his characters. They are all drawn in too-broad strokes for such an intense story; Firth's Lord Wotton is almost a charicature, spouting one-liners and cliche, and although Chaplin's Basil is the most interesting character - and indeed the catalyst for the strange events - he is woefully underused. Even the painting itself, teasingly hidden until the film's climax, is disappointing, looking more like a watercolour that's been out in the rain than the putrid symbol of a rotten soul. The whole thing plays like MTV meets Penguin Literary Classics, all fast editing and high gloss cinematography that just can't compensate for the lack of any emotional resonance. And, despite its seductive premise, it's just plain dull.

2 stars

ROLL CREDITS...
Stars Ben Barnes, Colin Firth, Ben Chaplin
Director Oliver Parker
Screenplay Toby Finlay, from the novel by Oscar Wild
Certificate 15
Distributor Momentum
Running Time 1hr 52mins
Opens September 9

Theatrical Reviews Archive

The Woman in Black (2012)
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)
Man on a Ledge (2012)
Night at the Museum 2 (2009)
Orphan (2009)
Synecdoche, New York (2008)
Black Swan (2010)
Star Trek (2009)
Drag Me To Hell (2009)
Tormented (2009)
Red Riding Hood (2011)
Coraline (2009)
Adam (2009)
Terminator Salvation (2009)
The Wrestler (2008)
Aliens in the Attic (2009)
Summer Scars (2007)
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
Coco Before Chanel (2009)
Moon (2009)
Angels & Demons (2009)
GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)
Blind Loves (2008)
Cherry Blossoms (2008)
Helen (2008)
Hereafter (2010)
Delta (2008)
Dorian Gray (2009)
The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009)
Bottle Shock (2008)
Just Another Love Story (2007)
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
Watchmen (2009)
District 9 (2009)
The Disappeared (2008)
Afghan Star (2008)
Paranormal Activity (2009)
Fireflies in the Garden (2009)
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Anything For Her (2008)
Paul Blart: Mall Cop (2009)
Sunshine Cleaning (2009)
Sex and the City 2 (2010)
New Town Killers (2008)
Zombieland (2009)
The Last House on the Left (2009)
Frozen River (2008)
Gran Torino (2008)
Heartless (2009)
The Scouting Book For Boys (2009)
Frozen (2010)
500 Days of Summer
Year One (2009)
The Expendables (2010)
Predators (2010)
Public Enemies (2009)
Tetro (2009)
Awaydays (2009)
Hierro (2009)
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2009): Review & Clips
Source Code (2011)
The Road (2009)
Robin Hood (2010)
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Lebanon (2009)
Shutter Island (2010)
Fuck (2005)
The Unborn (2009)
The Yes Men Fix the World (2009)
Cemetery Junction (2010)
The Bad Lieutenant - Port of Call: New Orleans (2009)
Not Quite Hollywood (2008)
Submarine (2011)
Drive Angry 3D (2011)
The Double (2013)
Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
Sin City: A Dame To Kill For (2014)
Ex_Machina (2015)
Still Alice (2014)
Selma (2014)
Big Bad Wolves (2013)
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
Prince Avalanche (2013)
The Voices (2014)
A Second Chance (2014)

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