Joe Orton was at least as controversial (if not more) for who he was than for the plays hewrote. Stephen Frears’ film (say its title aloud and fast and you’ll hear the rude pun) begins withthe murder of Orton (Gary Oldman) at the hands of his lover Kenneth Halliwell (Alfred Molina).Then, as biographer Wallace Shawn sets about reconstructing Orton’s life, the tales of friendsand relations (particularly agent Vanessa Redgrave) lead us into extended flashbacks, showingthe move…ent of the relationship from the early days when Halliwell was the dominant partnerand the supposed writer, to the disintegration as Orton becomes successful.
The characters (particularly Oldman, Molina and Redgrave) have dialogue that could havecome from an Orton play. Neither Orton nor Halliwell are particularly likeable, but Molinainvests Halliwell with a hysterical insecurity that makes his character both funny andsympathetic, hammer murders notwithstanding. I’m not entirely convinced that the flashbackstructure works as well as it should. Wallace Shawn and, to a lesser degree, Redgrave, areentertaining, but largely superfluous. Still and all, I’d like to think that Orton would haveappreciated this acerbic and witty take on his life.
The audio is 2.0 surround, but only the music is really given the surround treatment. Thereare very few sound effects emerging from the rear speakers (you get a bit during a fireworksscene). Most of the film is about its dialogue, however, and that is clear and undistorted.
The picture is rather grainy, too much so to be excusable in a 1987 flick. There are a coupleof shots where the grain is so severe that the blacks break up. The image could be a bit sharperas well. There is no visible edge enhancement, however, and the colours are generally strong.The picture comes in both fullscreen and 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen aspects.
Nothing but the trailer.
An intriguing film, even if it doesn’t quite hit the bull’s eye. Alfred Molina’s performanceis something to see, and Kenneth Halliwell would no doubt have been overjoyed to see the actorplaying him steal the movie from the actor playing Orton.
Special Features List
- Theatrical Trailer