An ambitious, intelligent, serious look at the life of Oscar Wilde, this is a first-class biopic.
Stephen Fry is Oscar Wilde, the role he was born to play. The film begins with Wilde’s triumphant lecture tour of the US, and we pick up his life from there, seeing his marriage, his seduction by Robbie Ross, and the flowering of his talent, even as his downfall becomes inevitable through his relationship with the callow Lord Alfred Douglas (Jude Law). Fry is surrounded by a…first-rate cast, and they in turn are aided and abetted by a sharp script that incorporates much of Wilde’s trademark wit.
Excellent sound for a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix. The music and sound effects have a full-bodied surround mix, and there is some very nice left-right separation going on. The dialogue is distortion-free, and is never drowned out by the music. Every last witticism comes through with crystalline clarity.
The picture preserves the original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio. The opening shots are rather alarming, given the quality of the sound: the print looks filthy, the sky disintegrating into muddy grain. Truly hideous. The grain very shortly disappears, and the images are sharp from then on, with very solid blacks. Once more concern: Time Out mentions the film’s “60’s Technicolor” look, and frankly, the colours were nowhere near that vibrant.
The menu sets the appropriate mood: scored, still images parade past, while Fry intones some of Wilde’s more famous quips. The extras are considerable. The commentary is by producer Mark Samuelson, director Brian Gilbert, writer Julian Mitchell and Fry. Their discussion is articulate, literate, and very informative, covering the nuts-and-bolts of filmmaking, thematic concerns, and biographical details. The two featurettes are more accurately features. “Simply Wilde” is a half-hour exploration of Wilde’s life, largely recounted by Fry. “Still Wild About Wilde,” running almost an hour, has still more about Wilde, but also has a lot more to say about the making of the film. Both documentaries are smart, interesting efforts. There is also a scored photo montage, filmographies of Gilbert, Mitchell, Fry, Jude Law, Vanessa Redgrave, Jennifer Ehle, and Tom Wilkinson, and trailers for Wilde (full frame, mono), The Celluloid Closet, Remains of the Day and The Age of Innocence. Finally, the DVD-ROM feature is the contents of the official Wilde website.
A superb film, accompanied by material that respects the intelligence of its audience.
Special Features List
- Filmmakers Commentary
- Theatrical Trailers
- Featurettes: “Simply Wilde” and “Still Wild About Wilde”
- DVD-ROM: Contents of the Official Wilde Website