Dorian Gray

Remakes and adaptations are often dismissed as lazy filmmaking and sometimes this accusation is justified. But there’s no shame in adapting great literature, especially if it’s done well. The Picture of Dorian Gray was Oscar Wilde’s only published novel and it’s a fascinating gothic horror story about pride, greed, temptation and vanity, a look at man’s weaknesses and his propensity for self-destruction.

Dorian Gray (Barnes) arrives in London a shy, naive and awkward young man. Family acquaintance Henry Wotton (Firth) introduces Dorian to the pleasures of the city and to Basil Hallward (Chaplin), an artist of some repute. When Basil paints a portrait of the handsome young man, Dorian makes a wish that he will forever retain his looks, no matter what the price. Dorian soon realises that his picture is ageing while he is not and embraces his hedonistic lifestyle.

Director Oliver Parker has created a dark, seedy Victorian London, combining glamour and depravity to superb effect as we follow Dorian on his never-ending quest for pleasure. Opium is ingested, gin is imbibed and lavish high teas are intercut with glimpses of naked flesh and sexual ecstasy. But the darkness is always there lurking in the shadows and as Dorian’s picture begins to rot so too does his soul. Ben Barnes metamorphoses from the socially inept Dorian to a leering lothario with almost disturbing ease, while Colin Firth provides excellent support as the devilish Wotton, leading Dorian astray seemingly for the vicarious pleasures he is unable or unwilling to indulge in himself.

Not only is this a truly original story packed with witty dialogue but it also shows how well Wilde observed human nature. The themes of celebrity and obsession with youth and beauty are every bit as relevant today, if not more so, which is one of the reasons this remake is worthwhile. Stylish, sensual and genuinely spine-tingling, Dorian Gray is well worth a look.

Official Site
Dorian Gray at IMDb

Justin Bateman is a Screenjabber contributor

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