“Why does one run towards ruin?” As Oscar Wilde, Rupert Everett is a self-indulgent falling star, a whimsical washout whining and wining his way towards the grave. Befitting its star there is mirth among the melancholy, but the fact remains that a man dying of syphilis – and by extension, The Happy Prince – isn’t exactly pleasant watching.
The Happy Prince clearly wants to explore the relationships around Wilde, as well as his own predilection to seek disaster – but the film dithers in drawing any conclusions until a final title card snaps the film into place. Those with better foresight or prior knowledge of Wilde’s life will likely uncover an arc long before the credits, but for others The Happy Prince may roll along for most of its running time as an absinthe-induced fever dream before any clarity is provided as to a central message.
Everett bookends The Happy Prince with narrative-spinning flashbacks and indulgent visual trickery, with the middle settling into typical period drama romance – albeit making good use of the legendary wit of its subject – and a talented supporting cast. Colin Firth is largely sidelined, but of course brings his considerable talent to bear in his limited scenes, while Colin Morgan is appropriately pathetic as Wilde’s infamous paramour Alfred “Bosie” Douglas. As is necessary for what becomes the film’s central theme, Edwin Thomas too is kept back, but that final title card only works because Thomas has poured everything into a few short scenes with Everett.
Everett sinks into the central role without shirking his directorial responsibilities – both are top-notch, and The Happy Prince certainly feels like a labour of love for this talented thespian. For those unfamiliar with Wilde, this respectful ode may feel more like a lurid slog, but one that will stay with you long after the vivacious rogue draws his final breath.
CAST: Rupert Everett, Emily Watson, Colin Firth, Colin Morgan, Edwin Thomas
DIRECTOR: Rupert Everett
WRITER: Rupert Everett
SYNOPSIS: The Happy Prince is the untold story of the last days in the tragic times of Oscar Wilde: a person who observes his own failure with ironic distance and regards the car crash of his life with detachment and humor.[TRAILER FORTHCOMING]