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Dorian Gray

August 25, 2010

Dorian Gray (2009)
Director: Oliver Parker
Actors: Ben Barnes, Colin Firth, Ben Chaplin

Synopsis: Dorian Gray (Ben Barnes) is a young man who makes a ‘Faustian Pact’ with a self-portrait, whereby he’ll retain his beautiful youth, while the picture will grow old for him.

Review: Oliver Parker has imagined Oscar Wilde’s compelling novel “The Picture of Dorian Grey” as a sort of contemporary mainstream horror flick, and whereby the story somewhat rewards that interpretation, it ultimately ends up selling short the more interesting metaphysical aspects of Wilde’s source text. Judged purely on the look and technique of the film, there is little to distinguish it from other hokum genre offerings, with its muted, desaturated palette and a copious smattering of CGI effects. For the first half of the film, this pulpy effect is admissible because the plot is ingeniously played out and Ben Barnes and Colin Firth so brilliantly (in look and performance) portray their key lead characters. Firth, in particular, has never seemed more in command of his craft than when schooling Barnes in the philosophy and deeds of hedonism courtesy of some tremendous Wildean one-liners. Unfortunately, once the central plot mechanism is played out (Dorian Gray will trade in his soul – as reflected in his portrait – for eternal youth), director Oliver Parker seems keener to explore and develop the melodramatic sinisterness of such a pact (all hokey sound effects and gothic portents) over the meatier dramatic potential as Gray stays young, while all his contemporaries grow older. (September 2009)

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