It feels trite to sum up The Happy Prince as poorly paced given its entertaining performances and difficult subject matter but it is simply too sad for too long. I wish that the writing, directing, and editing had been as good as the talented acting and heartbreaking story. Written, directed, and starring Rupert Everett who is both the force propelling the film and the parachute holding it back.
The story of the life of Oscar Wilde is a tragic one. He wrestled both with the prejudices that literally imprisoned him for his sexuality and severe substance abuse issues, the combined force of it all even likely killed him at far too young an age. It certainly stifled his creative voice too soon. The film certainly conveys this nightmare, however, I cannot help but feel that by truncating the story to the most tragic time of his life that it is robbed of the punch that comes from just how brightly Oscar Wilde shined. The result is also nearly the full runtime of 105 minutes composed entirely of depression and misery broken up by the occasional witty barb.
Despite the pacing of the story, Rupert Everett’s portrayal of Oscar Wilde is invigorating. He’s passionate, clever, and charismatic. While none of the acting in the film is subpar, Everett’s performance shines so far and above the rest of the cast that the experience is uneven. He’s easily the pillar of the entire film. While the writing doesn’t give us the best of Oscar Wilde, the performance certainly contains enough of him that it is worth watching.
While Rupert Everett’s acting elevates the film, his directing seems to sabotage his efforts at their worst and rarely does anything to support or improve the work. The biggest issues I noticed were inelegant cuts from one scene to the next. Usually, this happens when Everett tries to fade between two scenes with a visual similarity in order to tie them together but cannot quite technically make the fade work. At its best, though, his directing adds little to the subject matter merely competently conveying the mood.
While The Happy Prince is worth watching, its flaws will keep it from being particularly memorable or even meaningful. I’m hesitant to be so mean as to say that it feels made for TV, especially in an era when made for TV includes masterful works of storytelling, but I see little to justify a theater experience for this film outside of Everett’s performance as Wilde. If you greatly enjoy a tragedy you’ll likely be able to appreciate it despite its flaws, but I think few other audiences will find much to love here.
|Final Verdict:||It doesn't convey the best of Oscar Wilde, but it has enough of his spirit to enjoy.|