Dorian Gray


No oil painting…

Oscar Wilde’s eternal youth has enjoyed mixed fortunes over the years, having gone from the centre of attention in 1945’s The Picture Of Dorian Gray to a mere bit-part in 2003’s The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Oliver Parker’s new adaptation of Wilde’s 1890s novel lies somewhere in the middle and wins brownie points for remaining relatively faithful to the text.

Like other treatments, alas, it struggles to squeeze gothic thrills from a story that is more about ideas than action and a lead character that is basically just one big metaphor.

For those who dozed off in English lessons, the eponymous Dorian is a handsome young gent who stays miraculously unblemished while a portrait in his attic ages for him. Keeping the painting under wraps he embarks on a hedonistic binge that rots his soul, all the while remaining as dashing as, well, Prince Caspian’s Ben Barnes.

Parker, working from a script by first-timer Toby Finlay, decorates his fable with elegant Edwardian detail and gets sterling support from Colin Firth as Dorian’s epigram-spouting corruptor Henry Wotton. But about two-thirds through, he starts to lose faith in his source material, introducing some spurious hubbub and an inadvertently hilarious confrontation on the London Underground en route to an overblown, effects-laden climax.

Barnes, upstaged by a mouse in Caspian, fares better here, capably conveying his rake’s progress from gullible naïf to venal libertine. Yet even when he’s grappling with moral guilt, he’s never as compelling as, say, Matt Damon’s Mr Ripley, ensuring we never really care what he gets up to or what becomes of him.

That’s a pretty big flaw in a movie that requires us to empathise with his plight and spend almost two hours in his company. Another is the portrait itself, which leaves the ‘bad’ Dorian looking like Nanny McPhee.


No better or worse than Oliver Parker’s previous Wilde adaps, this polished affair is easy on the eye but cold to the touch. You end up wondering why it was made at all, beyond giving lazy schoolkids a pre-exam crib.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • Darcy

      Aug 31st 2009, 18:19


      I was very lucky to win tickets to see the exclusive screening of 'Dorian Gray' in London, and I have to say, I disagree with your review. I thought the film was excellent. There was never a boring point in the film. It was packed full of tension and was very well - acted. Ben Barnes gave an almost flawless performance of Dorian, his ability to alter the character's mood in the click of a finger, was more than impressive. Another strong point in the film is the evident strong relationship between Colin Firth and Ben Barnes, The two actors were able to bring out the best in each other. I found the film to be highly engaging and thought that the special effects were spectacular. I look forward to seeing more of Ben Barnes' work in the future. 

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    • dthekidd2005

      Sep 28th 2009, 2:23


      Oscar Wilde's novel dragged through the mud and drenched in bad cgi. On the whole though it was a mildy entertaining film. It could have been a very dark tale filled with wit and character that would be envied and loathed at the same time. Ben Barnes tries his best but lacks the experience to pull off such a role. His performance is carried by the exellent Colin Firth. It is plain that Firth is a fan of the source material and plays his part well. Seducng the young gray with the world of sex, drugs and more sex. One could almost forgive him for bridget jones. Of the many flaws in this film the biggest and most dissappointing is the cgi. Obviously this film lacked a mega budget but as district 9 proved this is no excuse for rubbish effects. The infamous portrait failed in its simple task of aging. They over complicated it with maggots and goo and ghost train sound effects. In ten years or so when this story is attempted again I hope a lead actor is hired for his ability to act and not how pretty his eyes are...

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    • buddy

      Oct 2nd 2009, 19:03


      I agree totally with your review. Film looked great. good detail, colin was cool but i`m too old to give a toss about ben barnes being a hearthrob to entice the minimum age certificate girls in. Although he was good and very johnny deppish so should go far. not enough to grab you into the film or story and the end was obvious (whether you know the story or not)within minutes. My wife loved it however but couldn`t say why. I`m sure ben is better looking than me so left it at that and was rewarded for my choice over this rather than 'The Firm' with a nice meal she paid for! good effort, looked good. no cigar.

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    • MissPennyLane

      Jan 30th 2010, 2:05


      I totally DISAGREE with the review..... like the last comment I totally loved the film, and at first did not know why! I was left speechless.... sat there in deep thought, I still am! I cannot find the words to describe it- shocking, the decadence was certainly there. Ben Barnes seemed to fit perfectly for the part of Dorian Gray totally consumed in endless pleasures, guilt and...... evil. Watching it you could see him becoming darker and lost in all that was wrong. Near the end I kind of wanted to see him move on and change sucessfully, although watching I knew all things like that must end. I was totally engrossed in the film, almost consumed by it myself! It leaves one feeling strange, like a love hate relationship mixed with fascination? I have never seen a film that has left me sat here.... quite like this! I must buy a copy!

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