Dorian Gray – The Movie

I mentioned the other day that myself and the delightful Novel Insights were off to see the movie Dorian Gray which I was quite shocked so few of you had heard was out, maybe just for once they have released a movie in Britain before anywhere else? Why is it we always get the movies last over here? So off we pootled to the cinema with brimming bags of popcorn and sweets (or in Novel Insights case cheese twists) and prepared ourselves to be whisked away in Victorian times through the medium of cinema. I thought this would be additional visual back ground for The Sensation Season.

I have to admit, before I go any further, that though we were both excited to be going to the cinema together and to see the movie; we had also heard that it had received some quite harsh reviews from certain ‘literary quarters’ and yet also been raved about by some of the movie magazines, I don’t read them it just says so on the posters ‘a terrific gothic romp’ etc. So we were both excited but slightly dubious all in one. We decided to just sit back and let the movie take over.

The first thing that I will say is that though this film ‘is inspired by’ The Picture of Dorian Gray and isn’t actually an exact retelling which is why when Dorian arrives in London having inherited a huge mansion and looking very innocent and knowing no one I was a bit confused. “That’s not how it started in the book” I almost grumped, but these are film adaptations and you have to simply not compare them to the book however hard it is.

Though I liked the book, I utterly loved the movie. Maybe it was my current obsession with all things sensational and the era of 1870 – 1900? Maybe it’s the fact I have immersed myself in all things Victorian and this embodied it all. It’s a very dark film, the way I would actually describe it (sorry of this sounds poncey) is like a rich decadent yet dark velvety thriller. But enough of that lets get back to the movie and the story… 

After the success of the showing of his newly found friend Basil’s portrait of him Dorian becomes the talk and desire of London.  One minute you are thrown into the glitz and glamour of society as Dorian (a brilliant Ben Barnes) makes his way first innocently and then falls into the path of Lord Henry and everything gets seedier and much, much darker. From then on its all about ‘youth and beauty’, getting what you want in life and a dark pact made with the devil inspired by Lord Henry that takes the tale into the darkest parts of Victorian east end (which of course I loved) and the darkest parts of the mind. I don’t want to give too much away in case you haven’t read the book or seen the film. If you have read the book I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the movies ending.  

I thought the acting by Ben Barnes was superb, after seeing him as Prince Caspian I have to admit that I was quite dubious he could pull it off. As innocent Dorian on arrival in London I thought ‘no this won’t work’ but as the darkness of the character crept in I was so impressed with the way he played it, some could say he was near on a perfect Dorian in fact. For me though, no offense Ben, but Colin Firths portrayal of Lord Henry Wotton was utterly superb and any scene in which he was simply got stolen from who he was playing against. He had the leer, the gluttony, the rapacious appeal and the beguiling nature of Henry down to a fine art and you cannot stop yourself watching him.

Sadly the girls let the film down a bit for me. I wouldn’t go as far as to say wooden, that would be slightly unfair, maybe the way the plot was devised they just weren’t given enough time but the whole Sybil Vane affair was done too quickly and neither leading lady had enough time to grow on you or show you why Dorian, who could have anyone, would want them.

The costumes were wonderful (I need a cape for winter and a long sweeping velvet coat, I currently have the shaped beard and some new boots so am almost dressing Victorian already ha) and had slight modern twists of the Victorian era in terms of making the film real but unreal which I liked, it in some ways felt slightly Tim Burton-esque. The sets were wonderful Victorian London at its finest, most lavish and darkest. Highgate Cemetery (the star of Audrey Niffenegger’s new book) made a guest appearance which has only made me more desperate to visit. The film was also surprisingly scary!

All in all a wonderful way to spend a few hours of your evening deeply embroiled in the Victorian underworld with a few spooky happenings along the way. I utterly loved it. If you want to see more you can go to the website here, see if that wets your appetites any further. I do think I might get Dorian’d out though as The Converted One after not wanting to see it now is desperate to (and I will happily see it twice) and also soon I am off to see this in a few weeks too!

22 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts, Books To Film

22 responses to “Dorian Gray – The Movie

  1. I had a student do a report on this novel and ever since I have wanted to read it myself. I am not sure if the movie has been released in the states yet (I don’t visit the cinema much), but I think I definitely want to read the book before I see the film.

    Thanks for the great review, Simon!

  2. Personally, I never expect a movie to be like the book. I expect movies to be good movies. I don’t make it out to actual theatres much anymore, but I’ll put this one in my Netflix queue.

    • Movies to be good movies is really what we sould all expect but then that could be interesting as we all have different thoughts on what a good movie is. Hmmm interesting food for thought thanks C.B

  3. I normally dislike movies of books if I’ve just read the book. But if I wait a little while, then I like it a lot better because it’s easier to remember that it won’t be anything like the book I just read.

    Thanks for these thoughts. Eager to see the movie some day!

    • Yes thats normally the case with me and books that are films… I like a distance. Oddly with this one it didnt matter and was good regardless but that might be because of the setting and timing with all things sensational.

  4. How exciting that the movie exceeded your expecations. I can’t wait to see it.

    Arrgh, I just checked imdb dot com, the bible of all things cinematic and televisionic, and Dorian Gray doesn’t even have a US release date listed. That doesn’t bode well. It might mean that it ends up on TV instead of the big screen. That has been known to happen with some British period drama.

  5. Rebecca

    I saw the Matthew Bourne production of Dorian at the Edinburgh Festival last year, and I was blown away – really superb! I’m sure you’ll love it. I’m looking forward to seeing the Dorian film now after reading your review!

    • I have to admit am very excited about tha Matthew Bourne version it just looks terrific. I think Novel Insights is coming along to that one too.

      The film is very very good, I hope everyone enjoys it as I have raved about it but some people have hated it.

  6. Oo dear, I didn’t think much of it… I thought most of the film was ok (though too much for my squeamish and maidenly eyes) but had none of the novel’s subtlety. All that would have been ok, until the ridiculous final scene… obviously the makers of the film wanted something more dramatic than the final scene in the book, and went rather overboard…

    …but I’m glad you liked it! I agree that Colin Firth was excellent, and Ben Barnes was particularly good at bewildered innocence.

    • Hmmm the ending is dubious but can’t say anymore on that here ha! Is your trip all over already, if so that went very quickly!

      Did the film make you jump as well, there were two moments where I may have made a squeaking noise I couldnt possibly comment further though.

  7. Like James, my expectations of book to movies are to be entertained, and that the essence of the plot is maintained. I must say I would go see the movie for Ben Barnes alone…he is quite the dude. Why do you think I allowed myself to be drug off to Prince Caspian? He is quite easy on the eyes. And Firth never lets us down either. I wonder when it is coming over to the US?

    • I thought Ben Barnes would be rubbish but he is a very fine actor. Colin Firth just wiped the floor with anyone who played opposite him, one of his finest performances. I also wanted his whole wardrobe.

  8. I now have to read the book because I feel ashamed and uncultured for not having read it and I want to go and see the film, because it sounds brilliant and has one of my top 5 old man crushes in it – the wonderful Mr Firth, of course. I do love Victorian gothic-y films! As long as it’s not as camp and filled with dodgy accents as From Hell I’m sure it will be right up my street!

    • Hahahahaha don’t be feel that way. I had only properly read it this year, I officially skimmed it with undulated boredom at my younger tries. It’s a classic but an unusual one. It’s not one of my all time fav’s but I did very much enjoy it!

  9. Pingback: Armadale Admition… « Savidge Reads

  10. cjz111

    I am jealous, jealous, jealous. I enjoyed the book and it is nice to hear of a movie that matches or exceeds the book even with things added or detracted when a book is adapted to film.

  11. I always rush to see movies that have been inspired by my favorite books. Sometimes I love them, and sometimes I, well, don’t. Unfortunately, this particular one is not out in the States yet. Yes, you got one before us Hollywood-ites! I’ll definitely keep an eye out for it though. Thanks for the tip.

  12. Meghan

    I was completely and totally disappointed with the movie. I was exited to see it after declaring the novel as my all-time-favorite book. The acting was well done, I will admit that, but the whole plot and the relationship between Dorian and the portrait what twisted into something terribly hollywood. I understand that some movies need to be made like that to keep the current audiance entertainned with sex and violence, but this story should have been left alone. It focussed far too much on Dorian’s relationhips with random women than his relationship with himself. The whole Basil- Dorian scene was completely unnescary, as was most bits of the movie. The movie did not deserve to be assosiated with such a wonderful peice of gothis fiction.

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