Johnny Depp continues to work hard in both good films and bad. While I didn’t care for this outing, I’m not sure I would call it a bad film… just one that didn’t connect with any of my tastes. Fans of Mr. 21 Jump Street will delight in yet another strong performance. He has the skill and talent to be remembered as one of the true greats. His performance in The Libertine does nothing to diminish that. But at the same time, there’s something dreadfully boring about films like these. Something not even Depp’s un…istakable craft can overcome.
Who the hell told writers and actors that films about them are so enthralling people will want to see them play the same characters in the same situations over and over again? It seems artsy folk are much more fascinated with themselves than John Q. Public, or any other moviegoer, could, or should, be. The weaknesses of The Libertine aspire to present them selves as the film’s strengths, and I, for one, am not buying. The plot is the same eccentricity finding redemption “on his own terms” theme that plays out in a lot of these films. Nothing much to say except that Depp plays an eccentric playwright, who insults King Charles II (John Malkovich) with a bawdy play that humiliates him in front of a group of French aristocrats. The stunt gets the playwright exiled, a punishment which seems more befitting than death to such a man, as he can no longer connect with his audience. Boredom ensues. The end.
Just as I was unhappy with the film, I couldn’t connect with the disc’s murky visuals either. Quality this poor must be on purpose, for dramatic effect. Even so, I did not enjoy looking at the grainy darkness and the drab colors. Of course, I understand many will applaud the cinematography for the very things I am dismissing it for, but that’s the risk run when you take the kind of chances The Libertine takes with its visuals. For those interested, the film is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio.
The 5.1 surround fares better than any other element of the disc. This track delivers a war film boost, which is no doubt over-the-top for the film’s subtle character elements. It can make one think he is watching a different kind of film than the one he ends up watching. Still, this kind of full-throttle, from-every-corner energy is never an unwelcome thing when it’s done this well.
There isn’t much you would want to revisit, even if you liked the film. The theatrical trailer is provided, along with uninteresting standards such as deleted scenes and a Making of The Libertine Documentary. The intriguing feature, as is most often the case, is the full-length director’s commentary.
Another period epic about an artsy-fartsy historical figure, who plays by his own set of rules – first, Shakespeare in Love, now this. Again, production value is not the issue, which keeps me from liking this film. It’s more the self-indulgence from those in the arts, who create. You’re not as fascinating as you think you are. The cinematography hampers an otherwise fine video rendering, and the bonus materials are too bare bones for a second look. But the audio gives this otherwise forgettable disc something of which it can be proud.
Special Features List
- Making of The Libertine Documentary
- Deleted Scenes
- Theatrical Trailer
- Director’s Commentary