About the film
Dorian Gray is a film adaptation of the Oscar Wilde 1891 novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray that was released in September 2009. The film is rated 15 due to strong sexual scenes, violence, gore, minor bad language and scenes of a disturbing nature and it is 122 minutes long. Dorian Gray also received financial help of £500,000 by the National Lottery.
Set in the late 19th century, Dorian Gray moves back to the family home in London after his father dies as he inherits the house. While at a charity musical concert, Dorian attracts the attention of artist Basil Hallward who quickly becomes his friend. Wanting to have more fun in London, Dorian talks Basil into taking him out to more parties, where he meets Lord Henry Wotton. The three become quite inseparable but Basil is worried about Lord Henry's effects on Dorian.
After seeing Basil's portrait of him finally finished, Dorian realises how beautiful he really is. Lord Henry assures him that his looks will never last so he might as well make the most of the time he has now. Not knowing the meaning of the words he speaks, Dorian ends up selling in soul to the painting in exchange for his everlasting good looks.
After meeting actress Sybil Vane in a seedy pub, Dorian falls in love and things start to go downhill. He realises that if he gets cut, the wound heals too quickly and scars he has had for years and now gone. Once Dorian announces his engagement to Sybil, Lord Henry is keen to show him the finer ways of life and takes him to a prostitution house, fully corrupting him. Once at the theatre that night to see Sybil and introduce her to Lord Henry, Dorian is extremely mean to her and they end their relationship. When he returns home, he realises that the painting is changing instead of him.
The next day after arriving home at a party, Sybil's brother is waiting for Dorian only to tell him that she drowned herself. He is quite obviously distraught but Lord Henry is there to assure him that it was nothing to do with him and he cannot be blamed. Looking again at the painting, Dorian sees it changing even more and locks it away in the attic so nobody can realise what is happening.
Destined for a life of eternal youth, Dorian has a long time to deal with his conscience.
I had wanted to see this film ever since I first saw the trailers but after reading the book, I wasn't so sure I wanted to anymore. Adaptations of novels tend to either be truly amazing or a complete waste of money and time so I was a bit wary about watching this one when I loved the book so much.
Ben Barnes was adequate but I think someone else could have played Dorian much better. While he played the naïve young boy well, once corrupted, there just wasn't enough evil in him to be convincing. When Sybil died, I expected to see a lot more emotion from Barnes but he just didn't seem distraught enough to make it believable that he really cared for her at one point.
Ben Chaplin who was most famously known for being in the 90's TV show 'Game On' and was the last person that I would have pictured for playing Basil Hallward. I had always pictured Basil as at least a middle aged man and Chaplin was not the same Basil as I had imagined. I think this way mainly because the film didn't make it clear enough that he was completely infatuated with Dorian and it only seemed that they were good friends. Basil was supposed to really care about the fact that Lord Henry is corrupting Dorian but I didn't get this feeling at all.
Not being a fan of Colin Firth, I was nicely surprised by his role in this film. He was completely mischievous with clear ulterior motives when it comes to Dorian and because of this, I was more interested in Lord Henry than I was Dorian for most of the film. Dorian Gray is a tale of morality but rather than the main character repent from his sins, it seems that once Lord Henry's daughter is in the picture, he shows more growth and concern than Dorian does.
It is quite clear that a lot of money was spend on costumes and the interior sets but from the first couple of scenes in, where the external of houses were shown, the film had cheap BBC film written all over it. You could see that the bricks and windows were painted on which made it seem more like a play to begin with than anything else. It was only when the film really begun that it felt more real.
The film as a whole deviated from the novel quite dramatically. There were so many points that were changed from the original story or parts that were newly added. I know certain things have to be done to a novel to make it work on the big screen but I thought some were unneeded. The fact that Dorian's picture was never shown to the public in the book was a big thing for me because it played a large part in the story. Another was the addition of Lord Henry's daughter, Emily. She was never a character in a book and this addition caused the ending of the story to completely change in the film which I assume was done to pad out the time.
As the book was a gothic horror, I was expecting there to be more drama, mystery and shocks throughout the film but it wasn't nearly creepy enough. The picture itself was supposed to be the most terrifying part in the film but it failed miserably. Instead of only changing appearance, it took on a life of its own. The noises that the picture made were supposed to be really creepy but I thought that they took away from what it was supposed to stand for. The picture in full was only shown at the end of the film and I was truly disappointed to see what it had become. I do admit though that the maggots and rotting were a nice touch, especially after the picture had been locked away for so long.
The thing that I loved so much about the book that it was so thought provoking and you never really got to know the things that Dorian got up to at night but here, there was nothing at all to think about. Set in the late Victorian era, wild orgies and lots of drinking would have been the idea of evil in such a gently bred man and this is what Dorian does for fun. He shows no shame in sleeping with people in the same family or who he hurts along the way. When he returns from his travels, everyone is shocked to see him, especially looking so good but from knowing what he is like, no one is openly welcoming him back. I would have greatly preferred it if some of Dorian's wicked ways were left to the imagination as I felt this ruined a big part of the film.
Overall, I was as disappointed with this film as I thought I would be. While the acting was adequate, the deviations from the original story were the make or break point for me. Unfortunately this film did not do justice to such an amazing story.