James Morris | Jackson Heights, NY United States | 12/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I really am puzzled by the number of people who somehow find the sexual aspect of a story concerning one of the most celebrated gay men in history too explicit. I mean, what did they expect?
First let me offer my review of Wilde - every moment of this film is brilliant. It perfectly articulates the shame behind a supreme waste of talent and the unjust imprisonment of one of the great literary geniuses of the English language. The sets, costumes and dialogue all manage to faithfully invoke the manners and attitudes of Victorian England. Stephen Frye gives a performance that is nothing less than incredible, and his physical resemblance to the real Oscar Wilde is downright spooky. The supporting cast is perfect, and the script pretty much says all that needs to be said about his trial, conviction and downfall. So what's not to like?
Some have complained that the film has focused too much on Wilde's sexuality and not enough on his literary accomplishments. But the purpose of the film is clearly to illustrate the travesty of justice that robbed the world of one of literatures greatest figures. Those who are interested in knowing what a fine writer Wilde was need only to acquire a book of his collected works or seek out a production of one of his theatre pieces. The purpose of this film is to show how Victorian morality cruelly destroyed the life of a great man.
Now let's talk about the "graphic sex scenes"...
I recently heard a "liberal" commentator on a radio show discussing the film Brokeback Mountain. He said, and I quote, "I am all for gay liberation. I support the right of gays to marry, and leave their property to their partners. I will sign your petitions, march in your parades, write my legislators pleading for laws to protect you, and argue with my conservative relatives on your behalf. But I cannot see Brokeback Mountain. Please don't ask me to. I just can't look at explicit gay sex. I'm sorry, but I am just not comfortable with it".
For him, and those who have the same reaction to "Wilde" I have but two words - grow up!
I am a 51 year old gay man. As a movie lover, I have sat through literally thousands of cinematic heterosexual love scenes in my life. I have watched men and women "suck face" and caress each other's naked bodies until I was fairly nauseous. For the record, I do not enjoy watching heterosexuals make love. While it doesn't exactly revolt me, it certainly isn't something I find appealing, either, but I have had to put up with it as long as I can remember. After all, one cannot go to a movie or turn on the television without seeing endless examples of graphic heterosexual lovemaking. And guess what? For all the sexually explicit straight love scenes I've sat through, I've managed to get through them intact. My eyeballs haven't fallen out, my penis hasn't shriveled up and blown away, and I have not turned heterosexual from watching all that straight sex. I would suggest to those who "support gay rights" but are "uncomfortable" with explicit gay sex scenes that they purchase a DVD of a gay film with about as much sexually graphic content as they think they can stand, and then watch it over and over and over until they are no longer uncomfortable with gay sex scenes. I think that would be fair; after all, I have been forced to acclimate myself to straight love scenes to the point where they no longer make me uncomfortable. But in renting such a film, I would NOT suggest Brokeback Mountain - I saw it last week. The "graphic" sex scenes last all of 60 seconds, and the same sex kissing scene (there is only one) takes up even less screen time than that.
As for Wilde, several heterosexual reviewers on this site complained that the "sex scenes" were far too graphic for them and their friends. Some even went to far as to claim that "half the movie" contained sexual content. My initial reaction to these comments was, HUH??? Gay sex? WHAT gay sex? I have seen this film three times, and I don't remember any gay sex scenes in it. At all. So I just went back and watched it a fourth time, with a notepad and a stopwatch. Gee, it turns out there is some gay sex in it. What follows is a complete description of everything in the film that could even remotely be called a "sex scene":
Fourteen minutes into the film, Oscar Wilde is seduced by the character of Robbie. Robbie kisses Oscar, then removes his own shirt, pulls down his pants, and places Oscar's hands on his exposed buttocks. They embrace. The scene fades. No actual sex is shown, and the scene lasts a total of one minute, exactly.
Two minutes later, there is a depiction of Oscar and Robbie in bed. Robbie is shirtless; Oscar has his arms around him. They kiss. There is no suggestion of actual sex. The scene fades after a total of 45 seconds.
A few minutes later, Oscar meets a young man at an art exhibit. They leave together. The next scene shows the young man shirtless and sitting on a sofa. Oscar is standing above him. He pulls Oscar down to the sofa, while kissing him. The scene fades; it has lasted exactly 15 seconds, and has not shown any actual sex.
Twenty-five minutes into the film, Oscar meets Bosie, played by Jude Law. Thirty-one minutes into the film, we see Bosie's naked torso, he is clearly in the throws of passion. He thrusts once, as though climaxing. The camera pans to reveal he is on top of Oscar, who appears to be nude. They kiss. The scene fades. It has lasted 50 seconds, and is the first and only time we see Oscar undressed. Although there is the suggestion that sex has taken place between them, no sex is actually shown.
Forty minutes into the film, Bosie takes Oscar to a male brothel, where Bosie puts his arms around a male prostitute; both are clothed. Their intimacy lasts about 4 seconds. There is no suggested or actual depiction of sex.
At one hour and seven minutes into the film, we see Bosie in bed with another "rent boy" while Oscar sits in a chair watching, fully clothed. We see the couple in bed through a mirror; it is a long shot, but Bosie's buttocks are clearly visible, and he is thrusting his body as though in sexual coitus. This is the only scene in the entire film that I would label "sexually graphic" and it lasts exactly 6 seconds. It is also the last "sex" scene in the film, which continues for an additional 50 minutes.
Of all the "sex" scenes in the film, none show genitalia, or depict contact with genitalia. In all but one scene Oscar is fully dressed. The on-screen same-sex kisses last less than one minute, total, and, all told, the sex scenes described above - if one could really call them that - last a TOTAL of exactly three minutes; only 6 seconds of those sex scenes could be described as "graphic" - out of one hour and fifty-seven minutes of screen time. Hardly "half the movie" as one reviewer put it.
After reading some of the reviews posted here, I wonder if these people saw the same film I did. Because all the "gay sex" they complain about is hardly there. The only "graphic" sex scene lasts six seconds, yet one would think from reading those reviews that this film was hardcore pornography. Can these reviewers really be that hung up on gay sex that they see graphic images where almost none exist?
I have seen hundreds of "mainstream" films with far more explicit sex scenes involving heterosexuals in my day, many of which were truly gratuitous and excessive. If I were to cry and whine, "Look what me and my poor gay friends had to witness" every time I saw a tasteless straight sex scene, I'd never stop crying and whining.
Just once I wish straight people could see things from my view. I have had heterosexual romance shoved down my throat all my life. If you are straight and are reading this, my advice is: don't be such a sissy. Straight sex scenes never harmed me, and gay sex scenes aren't going to hurt you, either. If you want to see a good dramatic film about a famous homosexual, be prepared to expect a little gay sex, and PLEASE don't get hung up about it. "
The Portrait of Oscar Wilde--one of wit and compassion
Daniel J. Hamlow | Narita, Japan | 12/05/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If anything, the value of true love and compassion, unfettered by social interdictions, and how the Victorian attitudes made only a certain kind of love a crime, is the driving force behind Wilde. The bio-movie of legendary playwright and wit Oscar Wilde begins with his trip to Leadville, Colorado in 1882, where a seam in a silver mine has been named in his honour. Down the mine, he tells the story of The King's Dream, about how the king has dreams revealing how lesser class people have toiled and suffered so that nobles can wear finery and wield sceptres and ornaments of silver and gold.Wilde seems to have it, talent, wit, a nice wife, two children. It's at the reception for his play, Lady Windermere's Fan, that we see the beginning of the end. There, Wilde is introduced to Lord Alfred Douglas, nicknamed "Bosie", a handsome blond who finds conventional morality stifling, such as his enjoyment of other men, but whose selfishly immature, egotistic nature comes out in an ugly way later in the movie. "Bosie" admires Wilde. "You use wit like a knife, cut through all those starched shirt fronts. You draw blood. It's magnificent," he tells him.Bosie introduces Wilde to secret parlors where there are others who have homosexual leanings, but he seems proud to display himself as "Wilde's boy", wanting the whole world to know, whereas Wilde is a bit more on the cautious and side. Yet he counsels Bosie, who is then in a petulant pique that Wilde has to work on his play instead of having fun, that "pleasure have to be earned and paid for." And yet he is patient and forgiving towards the lad.The villain of this piece is Bosie's brutish father, John Sholto Douglas, better known as the 9th marquis of Queensbury, he who invented the boxing rules such as wearing gloves, the ten second count, and rounds. He strongly disapproves of Bosie's friendship with Wilde and sets about verbally intimidating both.The attitudes of the stuffed shirts in Victorian England can be found in a lady's comment on censorship: "There must be censorship. All people would say what they meant, and then where would we be?" Wilde too gives a view of the stifled times when he says that if his son grew up, "he must do as his nature dictates, as I should have done." But couldn't, one should add.At various parts of the movie, Wilde's story of "The Selfish Giant" is narrated to match the scene or Wilde's feelings.All throughout, Wilde's wit and observations on human nature are heard. Examples: "Give a man a mask and he'll tell you the truth." This in turn leads to a conversation about The Picture Of Dorian Gray, a novel about "the masks we wear as faces, the faces we wear as masks" that lost the Wildes their respectability for its unveiling the hypocritical veneer of Victorian gentility. But the most important is this: "In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants. The other is getting."Those who know of Wilde's life knows how it'll end, but there are some sobering narrated observations that reflect the suffering he underwent: "Life cheats us with shadows. We ask it for pleasure, it gives it to us with bitterness and disappointment in its train." Or the way people destroy the thing they love most:Some do it with a bitter look
some with a flattering word
the coward with a kiss
The brave man with a sword
some kill their love when they are young
and some when they are old
some strangle with the hands of lust
some with the hands of gold
the kindest use a knife
because the dead so soon grow coldStephen Fry, best known as Jeeves in the Jeeves and Wooster series does a top-notch job in portraying the playwright and wit. His Wilde is suave, charming, loving and understanding to his wife, children, and Bosie, and in the end, unwilling to perjure himself and his beliefs despite its meaning his fall from grace. Jude Law does good as Bosie, but Jennifer Ehle also deserves credit as the soft-spoken but loyal and beautiful Constance Wilde."
Beautiful, you will want to visit Paris...
Dianne Foster | USA | 02/02/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In WILDE, Stephen Fry (Jeeves in "Jeeves and Wooster") is the consummate Wilde. Jude Law plays his lover Bosie Douglas. Jennifer Ehle (Elizabeth Bennett in "Pride and Predjudice") plays Wilde's long suffering wife. Vanessa Redgrave and Tom Wilkinson also have important roles. What a cast. The Belle Epoch is beautifully recreated as Wilde travels between England and France--clothes, interiors, architecture, grounds. You don't even have to understand the story to enjoy "being there" in the parks, homes, carrriages. Oscar Wilde was a writer, best remembered perhaps for "The Portrait of Dorian Grey" although modern audiences may be more familiar with his stage play "The Ideal Husband" (recently made into a film with Jeremy Northern and Cate Blanchett) or "The Importance of Being Earnest." Wilde was a homosexual in England in an age when one could and did go to prison for acting on instinct. (Nowadays in Saudia Arabia they take off your head.) Although the public became aware of his proclivities, Wilde remained one of Europe's most admired writers. Unfortunately, his term in prison for his sexual preferences may be remembered longer than his works which contain a wonderful drawing room humor many folks fail to grasp. This is a great film, and if you're an Anglophile you must add it to your collection. -- And Paris?? That's where Oscar is buried."
Both enormously entertaining and amazingly accurate biopic
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 02/19/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For the most part, this is one of the most amazingly accurate biopics I have ever seen. The screenwriter obviously wrote it with Richard Ellman's stellar biography in one hand, and except for one small bit, stays astonishingly true to the facts of Wilde's life. The accuracy is one of the two things that makes this film so fascinating. The other is the remarkable performances by the films actors. Stephen Fry is nothing short of remarkable, acting Wilde as a real person, instead of a parody or caricature of Wilde. Jude Law, in one of his first notable screen performances, is appropriately fetching as Alfred Lord Douglas (and I do admire his courage as a heterosexual actor portraying so convincingly a homosexual siren). Tom Wilkinson, who each year seems to distinguish himself more and more as one of the most versatile and talented actors in film, is suitably vicious and tenacious as Lord Douglas's father, the Marquess of Queensbury. He strikes perfectly the pose of evangelical fervor and philistinism that one detects in reading of the real Marquess. Jennifer Ehle is excellent in the thankless role of Wilde's wife. The movie depicts quite accurately Wilde's intention in prison to return to his wife after leaving prison, an intention that was frustrated by her death before his release. His relationship with Robbie Ross, who was in real life probably Wilde's most faithful and dedicated friend, is shown in moving detail.The lone complaint I have with the film is the omission of the past couple of years of Wilde's life. Although he was reunited with Alfred Lord Douglas briefly upon his release from prison, their attempted reconciliation was largely a failure, and they eventually went their own ways, with Lord Douglas completely turning his back on Wilde during his time of greatest need. The end of Wilde's life was heartbreakingly tragic, with Wilde often employing his considerable conversational skills in entertaining strangers for the cost of a few drinks. The contrast between the Oscar Wilde who had multiple plays running simultaneously in London in the 1890s and the Wilde who died nearly friendless and penniless in France in 1900 is as poignant as any in literary history. In 1895, he is the toast of London; in 1900, a pariah. But perhaps this alternative version of Wilde's life would have been too bleak. Even without the fuller ending, this is a very sad and tragic film. And WILDE proves that you can have a biopic that can, at the same time, maintain an exceedingly high degree of historical advocacy while remaining dramatically engrossing."
Stephen Fry's memorable performance as the tragic Oscar
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 07/13/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"My introduction to Oscar Wilde consisted of three disparate sources. First, I read "The Importance of Being Earnest," the wittiest play ever written in the English language. Second, there was Monty Python's Oscar Wilde sketch, where Wilde, James McNeil Whistler and George Bernard Shaw force each other to turn insults into compliments for the Prince of Wales. Third, there was the "Masterpiece Theater" mini-series "Lillie," in which Peter Egan played Wilde and where for the first time I heard the speech from Wilde's court case where he explains "the love that dare not speak its name." It is one of the most unforgettable declarations from the docket in human history and I think I just about have it memorized because it was really burned into my mind the first time I heard it. When I watched "Wilde," my knowledge and understanding of Oscar Wilde was extended in several key ways. In playing the title role actor Stephen Fry makes Wilde seem less the dandy and more the kindly man he must have been to be put in the situation that caused his down fall. In contrast, Lord Alfred Douglas (Jude Law), known as "Bosie," might be beautiful of face but it is most decidedly skin deep. He is an ugly human being and when Wilde does what he does out of the goodness of his heart, the tragedy that it is for somebody who does not deserve it. I had not really thought much of Bosie before, but after watching "Wilde" I consider him a most despicable figure. Wilde was in prison within three months after the opening of "The Importance of Being Earnest," and the thought of what has been lost to literature and drama is rather sickening. It is only in the film's final scene that for the first time I found myself thinking of Oscar Wilde as a pathetic figure, and again it was because of Bosie.I had long appreciated the irony that despite his homosexuality Wilde truly loved his wife Constance (Jennifer Ehle), but in Julian Mitchell's screenplay, based on Richard Ellmann's noted biography, I learn an even greater irony with regards to Wilde's downfall, namely that his physical relationship with Bosie had been of short duration and that they were not lovers at the time of the libel suit involving the Marquess of Queensberry (Tom Wilkinson). In that regard this 1997 film enhances the tragic aspects of the story. Of course, the essence of the tragedy is articulated by Wilde himself, who declares: "In this life there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants. The other is getting it.""