Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring Ben Barnes, Colin Firth, Rebecca Hall, John Hollingworth, Caroline Goodall
Directed by Oliver Parker
Distributed by E1 Entertainment
Over the years Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray has seen dozens of adaptations. This latest big budget one turns out in the end to be a fairly faithful one with a few pitfalls here and there. Before we get to that, though, a quick summary of the plot for those unfamiliar with the tale (and shame on you if you aren’t).
Dorian Gray (Barnes) is a strapping young lad with the world at his feet. He’s come into a great sum of cash thanks to an inheritance, and his good looks only further enhance everyone’s want or need to be around him. Upon his arrival in London he is quickly befriended by Lord Henry Wotton (Firth), who then turns the young man on to a seedy lifestyle filled with all kinds of sex that eventually leads to betrayal and violence.
While Dorian enjoys his newfound lust and popularity, an artist friend paints a portrait that captures him in all of his youth and glory. As his ego would have it, Dorian offers up his very soul to be able to forever remain as young as he is in that picture. However, youth comes with a price, and in order to stay as dashing as he is, he must commit some pretty vile acts.
Director Oliver Parker crafts a fine retelling of this classic story that’s filled with a plethora of R-rated material only hinted at in other adaptations. Barnes and Firth are a charming and evil duo, and both turn in for the most part pretty top-notch performances. So what kept this one from rating a bit higher? Clocking in at one hundred and twelve minutes, it just feels to damned long. The runtime isn’t exactly what you would call excessive, but parts of the film just drag on endlessly, and that’s a real shame because when Dorian Gray is good, it’s actually very good. Some more time tightening this up with a fine editor would have gone miles to make the experience far more engaging than it was.
Speaking of looks, the 1080p high definition transfer is solid as a rock. The film is dark, but the blacks are rich and inky and the colors really pop when they need to. The image is sharp throughout, and the detail at times is pretty stunning. Given that the film itself is on the quieter side of the fence, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless audio track does a fine job of keeping things as crystal clear as they need to be.
At first glance it seems like there’s quite a bit included here, but in reality most of the featurettes are on the really short side. Things kick off with a commentary with director Oliver Parker and screenwriter Toby Finlay that’s rather dry and technical. If you make it through this audio track, you’re a far more patient man than I am. From there we get over forty-five minutes of on-set interviews, a ten-minute behind-the-scenes look, and then several short featurettes covering everything from wardrobe to the painting itself (which I should mention is quite something to see as it deteriorates, even if it is CGI, and thankfully the filmmakers went with the “less is more” approach as far as how many times it’s shown). Add on a photo gallery, several deleted scenes (mostly just expository stuff), and a blooper reel featuring a very giggly Ben Barnes; and we’re finished.
While this new version of Dorian Gray won’t exactly set the night on fire or have you popping it in for repeat viewings, it still manages to rise above the usual crop of adaptations and is very much well worth a look.
3 1/2 out of 5
3 1/2 out of 5
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