Wednesday, November 21, 2018
Movies

Rupert Everett’s moving ‘Happy Prince’ stages Oscar Wilde’s tragic final act

Directed, written by and starring Rupert Everett, The Happy Prince is a genuine passion project, a creative act existing completely in its own space and on its own terms. Both in his disciplined filmmaking, with each scene choreographed as carefully as a dance, and his portrayal of playwright and author Oscar Wilde in decay far past his prime, Everett delivers an almost unbearably bittersweet feast for the senses.

Handsomely shot across period-appropriate European locations, the film is faithful to the facts. The heart of the tale is the twilight of Wilde’s legend, the final three years of his life.

Wilde, the 20th century’s first true pop celebrity, had just completed two years’ hard labor in prison for his crime of being gay and out in Victorian England. That was all it took to end his glorious days basking in the applause of audiences for The Importance of Being Earnest. In 1897, with a ruined reputation and failing health, he became an outcast in France, imprisoned by bankruptcy and exile.

The script doesn’t make Wilde a conventional, overtly sympathetic hero. It introduces him at rock bottom, living in cheap Paris hotels under the alias of Sebastian Melmoth because France also considers him scandalous. Once a literary lion, he now prowls the city’s alleys, asking for handouts when recognized by visiting English socialites who remember him from his days of acclaim. He uses whatever loose change his pockets hold to buy glasses of absinthe or male prostitutes.

But the elegantly dressed London dandy of better days still lives in his memories. As the movie comes and goes through different periods of his life, it becomes a meditation on mortality, sexuality, beauty, suffering and the longing for youth.

Wilde has too many regrets to count, and high among them is his parting from his wife, Constance (Emily Watson), and their two young boys. In recurring flashbacks, the children give the film its framing device as he tells them the bedtime story of the happy prince, a pleasure-seeking young noble who discovers his scruples in dying.

As Constance, who keeps Wilde afloat with a tiny allowance, Watson balances her feelings of shame and dishonor with a recognition that he deeply loves their children and, in his outlandish way, her as well. Given the ambiguous ways that Wilde applies the term “love,” we can understand her ill feeling.

A pair of loyal, sensible supporters support him with counsel and finances throughout: Robbie Ross (Edwin Thomas), the caring trustee of Wilde’s estate, and Reggie Turner (Colin Firth), a longtime friend hoping to revive his career in London theater. But Wilde seems to see pleasure and suffering as synonyms, a good insight for a great artist but a poor strategy for living.

Everett’s deeply sad performance digs into the man’s melancholy, unquenchable wit and invincible ego masterfully. Wilde attempts a small return to the stage by singing to a delighted music hall crowd while standing atop his table. Unable to avoid obvious dangers, he slips and falls to the floor for a concussive climax. And, as is his nature, he continues to pursue contact with the depraved Alfred “Bosie” Douglas (Colin Morgan), the young rake whose tumultuous affair with Wilde ruined him.

If you call this a film about addiction, you won’t be far from the truth. Wilde is always desperate for more, even when he’s clearly already sick. In Everett’s film, he becomes a figure like Lear, his madness becoming his tragedy as he remains determined to let it finally consume him.

The Happy Prince

Director: Rupert Everett

Cast: Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Colin Morgan, Edwin Thomas, Emily Watson

Screenplay: Rupert Everett

Rating: R; sexual content, graphic nudity, language and brief drug use

Running time: 105 minutes

Opens at AMC Woodland Square 20 in Oldsmar and AMC Veterans 24 in Tampa.

Comments
Six holiday movies to see at Tampa Theatre this Christmas season

Six holiday movies to see at Tampa Theatre this Christmas season

Tampa Theatre has released the lineup for its annual Holiday Classics series, including “Elf,” “A Christmas Story” and “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
Published: 11/20/18
What's new in theaters for Thanksgiving

What's new in theaters for Thanksgiving

Check out sequels Creed II and Ralph Breaks the Internet, or a “fresh” take on Robin Hood. Scandal politics take center stage in The Front Runner, and Green Book takes a tour through the segregated Deep South.
Published: 11/20/18
Fairly enjoyable, consistently predictable, ‘Creed II’ is more ‘Rocky’ than its predecessor

Fairly enjoyable, consistently predictable, ‘Creed II’ is more ‘Rocky’ than its predecessor

Here’s what Creed II is. It is a direct continuation, 33 years later, of the events laid out with a right hook in Rocky IV (1985).
Published: 11/20/18
‘Green Book’ is the rare Hollywood crowd-pleaser that triumphs on all counts

‘Green Book’ is the rare Hollywood crowd-pleaser that triumphs on all counts

A spirited buddy comedy, road movie, fish-out-of-water fable and accessible social history, Green Book is just that cinematic unicorn.
Published: 11/19/18
The Zola Twitter saga went viral. The ‘Zola’ movie is being filmed in Tampa Bay.

The Zola Twitter saga went viral. The ‘Zola’ movie is being filmed in Tampa Bay.

The story of prostitution, stripping and crime is becoming a movie called Zola. The production has been filming in the Tampa Bay area since Oct. 29, confirmed St.Petersburg-Clearwater film commissioner Tony Armer.
Published: 11/15/18
Updated: 11/16/18
Review: Gut-punch 'Boy Erased' reveals cruelty of conversion therapy

Review: Gut-punch 'Boy Erased' reveals cruelty of conversion therapy

'Boy Erased' is a fair and balanced condemnation of conversion therapy. It's also a gut punch.
Published: 11/15/18
In theaters this week: ‘Fantastic Beasts 2,’ ‘Widows,’ ‘Boy Erased,’ ‘Instant Family’

In theaters this week: ‘Fantastic Beasts 2,’ ‘Widows,’ ‘Boy Erased,’ ‘Instant Family’

Take your pick at the multiplex from the Harry Potter prequel, a heist, a family comedy and an important gay conversion drama.
Published: 11/14/18
Tampa Bay comic book artists and fans react to Stan Lee’s death

Tampa Bay comic book artists and fans react to Stan Lee’s death

Tampa Bay is home to comic book industry professionals and fans — even a superhero — who were impacted by the Marvel icon and his work.
Published: 11/14/18
Holiday movie guide: From 'The Grinch' to 'Mary Poppins,' 32 movies to see by year's end

Holiday movie guide: From 'The Grinch' to 'Mary Poppins,' 32 movies to see by year's end

The season is stocked with awards hopefuls and familiar faces, including The Grinch (Nov. 9), the Potterverse (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Nov. 16), a superhero (Aquaman, Dec. 21) and even Mary Poppins, y'all (Mary Poppins Returns, Dec. 19).
Published: 11/06/18
New in theaters this week: ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ ‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms,’ ‘Nobody’s Fool’

New in theaters this week: ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ ‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms,’ ‘Nobody’s Fool’

The highly anticipated Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody is expected to top the box office while competing against the star-studded reinvention of the classic The Nutcracker and Tyler Perry’s comedy Nobody’s Fool starring Tiffany Haddish.
Published: 10/31/18
Updated: 11/19/18