Dorian Gray (2009)

Dorian Gray (2009)

2009 | R | 112 Minutes

Fantasy | Drama | Thriller

A vain London playboy offers his soul in exchange for eternal beauty in this adaptation of the chilling tale by author Oscar Wilde. Seduced into the decadent world of Lord Henry Wotton (Colin Firth...

Overall Rating

4 / 10
Verdict: So-So

User Review

  • Dorian Gray paints a tediously dull portrait of a lifeless character portrayal. A little known fact about me, Wilde's gothic novel 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' is in fact one of my favourite pieces of literature to ever be put on paper. It's views on hedonism, immoral life choices and the representation of the deadly sins, gives its narrative an overbearing sense of dread. That's without mentioning that cursed portrait. This adaptation however seems to miss the point entirely and settles for a soft-pornographic approach as opposed to a philosophical perspective. A young naive Dorian Gray enters London (like a lost child!) and is quickly swept up in an aristocratic lifestyle of excessive pleasure, inadvertently cursed to a painting that grants him eternal youth.

    As I mentioned earlier, this interpretation of the original novel does not sit well with me for several reasons. The concept of moral duplicity is completely unbalanced. Gray is a character withholding two personas, the rich aristocratic lifestyle that his lordship title leads and the indulgence into poverty which enabled his criminal behaviour. Director Parker chooses to focus mostly on Gray's naivety and his manufactured aestheticism. Therefore resulting in any murderous behaviour to be somewhat unbelievable for the character that is interpreted. Instead, we get a scene where Gray penetrates a woman, only to then have intercourse with her mother seconds later (whilst she hides under the bed), and then proceeds to continue with her afterwards. There's a word here: subtlety. It's non-existent. There are ways to convey hedonism without being promiscuous every second of every day. The portrait won't kill Dorian, HIV will.

    The whole film relies on the central performance. Gray is played by Barnes. He is bad. Really bad. The emotional range of a slab of butter. He definitely exhumes the beauty of the titular character, sure. Unfortunately that's about it. On the other hand, Firth and Hall made this adaptation tolerable. Just a shame they aren't given much to work with. Much appreciation for the moments of horror, mostly involving the portrait, that dabbled into Wilde's gothic nature. Yet most scenes were horrifically edited and plagued with jump cuts in order to keep the certification low.

    Shame really, if Parker embraced the intended thematic terror, this could've been decent. The lavish production design and the period costumes just aren't enough to save this portrait from disintegrating into a messy oil painting. The thematic resonance and philosophical ambiguity that made the novel a stroke of genius, is not present at all. Surprised Gray didn't say "now paint me like one of your French girls"...