Some day, there will be an excellent film adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” Until such time, however, we’ll have to make due with bad movies like Oliver Parker’s “Dorian Gray.”
It appears that Parker and screenwriter Toby Finlay believed that classic Wilde text was in desperate need of oomphing up. As a result, the production goes far out of its way to highlight the level of sexual depravity and physical violence created by its eponymous character. Thus, we are treated to tacky scenes with Dorian being undressed by the multicultural employees of a London whorehouse and Dorian unbuttoning his pants while a male admirer kneels before him.
Even worse, this film creates a completely new final act that puts Dorian into World War I-era London. The contrast between the eternally youthful Dorian and his Victorian contemporaries (who are buried under dusty grey wigs and layers of latex make-up) is utterly ridiculous, and a pair of belated chase sequences is added for no intelligent reason.
Ben Barnes is physically perfect as the uncommonly handsome Dorian, though his attempts to portray the character’s sadistic cruelty never truly resonate – he seems more dyspeptic than sinister when he on the hunt for nasty fun. But at least Barnes makes an attempt at acting – Colin Firth’s aphorism-dropping Lord Henry Wotton and Ben Chaplin’s artistic Basil Hallward are so indifferent to their surroundings that it seems they are cold-reading their lines from cue cards.
“Dorian Gray” is also packed with sub-standard CGI effects and the clumsiest use of green screen technology this side of Tommy Wiseau’s “The Room.” But at least one can score cheap laughs at “The Room” – there’s nothing funny (intentionally or otherwise) in this dismal mess.