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Sunday March 3, 2019 4:00pm
Rainbow Theatre, Northumberland Mall, Cobourg

Happy PrinceIn a cheap Parisian hotel room Oscar Wilde lies on his death bed. The past floods back, taking him to other times and places. Was he once the most famous man in London? The artist crucified by a society that once worshipped him? Under the microscope of death he reviews the failed attempt to reconcile with his long suffering wife Constance, the ensuing reprisal of his fatal love affair with Lord Alfred Douglas and the warmth and devotion of Robbie Ross, who tried and failed to save him from himself. Travelling through Wilde's final act and journeys through England, France and Italy, the transience of lust is laid bare and the true riches of love are revealed. It is a portrait of the dark side of a genius who lived and died for love.

Cast: Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Colin Morgan, Edwin Thomas, Emily Watson, Tom Wilkinson
Rating: R (for sexual content, graphic nudity, language and brief drug use)
Genre: Drama
Directed By: Rupert Everett
Runtime: 105 minutes
Language: English

Review

By MaryAnn Johanson

Happy Prince4Actor Rupert Everett’s labor of cinematic love — he makes his debut here as writer and director, and is his own leading man — is a small wonder of contradictions: nightmarish yet sanguine, a bit sordid yet full of grace. Already a literary legend in his own time, Irish playwright and poet Oscar Wilde is forced, in the late 1890s, to leave London in ignominy when he is released from two years’ hard labor in prison after a conviction of “gross indecency” (ie, homosexual behavior). Exiled in France, and then Italy, a broke and broken man living under a pseudonym (though everyone knows who he is, which sometimes brings violent homophobic abuse down upon him), he struggles to cling to his wit, his outsized personality, and his own fierce sense of self, purely as a matter of survival of body and soul.

Be not mistaken: Wilde himself is not The Happy Prince; the title is bitter and ironic, borrowed from a children’s story Wilde wrote that, in flashbacks to untroubled times, he tells as a bedtime tale to his young sons, and now to a young Parisian street urchin who has become a stand-in for his children. Although, in fact… the story is about how suffering for the sins of others will see you rewarded in the next life, so Wilde, who was fascinated by Catholic theology, may have seen himself in that. And we certainly may, too.

Happy Prince7Everett (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children) portrays Wilde’s optimism, in what would be his last years — he died at only 46 — as inescapable yet tragic: “I must love and be loved whatever price I pay for for it,” he sighs, and a price will be paid. A desire to reconcile with his estranged wife, Constance (Emily Watson: Kingsman: The Golden Circle), fails. A reigniting of his romance with Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas (Colin Morgan: The Huntsman: Winter’s War) is a bit of a disaster; Morgan plays Bosie like an insufferable, spoiled little shit, which renders Oscar’s affection for him quite mysterious, which I’m sure is intended to add to the tragedy of the writer’s desperation for affection. This is often a difficult film to behold: it depicts a litany of human misery and cruelty both petty and prodigious, and it’s only just barely tempered by kindness, love, and humor, on Oscar’s part as well as those of his true friends, literary agent Robbie Ross (Edwin Thomas) and old pal Reggie Turner (Colin Firth: The Mercy). We are watching the sparkle go out on one of the great wits of the English language and one of the wisest observers of humanity, and it’s wretchedly heartbreaking.

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