There’s a marvelous film that’s been slowly making the rounds of art houses, simply called 'Wilde,' the story of the climactic years of Wilde’s life, based on the classic biography by Richard Ellmann. Stephen Fry is Wilde, and his performance is a brilliant treasure. He has the look of Wilde, and better still the range of voice, from lightest conversation to deepest reading and storytelling. And he gives us a portrait of Wilde that uncannily resembles Wilde’s own creation of Dorian Gray, the man who can stay youthful until the realities of life and death overtake him and his fantasies.
But there’s more to the film than just this inexorable downward trajectory. We see Wilde and his wife -- a very thoughtful performance by Jennifer Ehle -- and his two young boys. We listen as Wilde reads to them in his gorgeous voice the story he wrote for them about the giant and the children in the garden. And we see him in Reading Jail, serving his two years at hard labor.
So the main characters are superb in this movie. The very talented Stephen Fry plays Wilde as naturally as he is gay and portrays the man with great humanity and dignity. Jude Law's temperamental impersonation of ‘Bosey' is also memorable, but I fear the pretty lad may end up with a price tag label wording ‘Hire me if you need a toy boy who isn't afraid to show butt and kiss arse.' Vanessa Redgrave puts on a very liberal performance as the unconventional Irish mother who brought the genius into the world, and also worth mentioning is the darling Jennifer Ehle from TV's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, as the silent suffering wife.
Rochester Goes Out
The sweet-faced Sheen is the standout of a fine supporting cast, which includes Jennifer Ehle as the doomed Constance, Wilde's wife and herself an unwitting victim, and Zoe Wanamaker and Judy Parfitt as two of the shrewder women in Oscar's increasingly male-dominated orbit.