The Happy Prince
A couple of decades ago, Rupert Everett came to international attention by playing Julia Roberts’s sassy gay friend in My Best Friend’s Wedding. Not so long after, he played Madonna’s sassy gay friend in The Next Best Thing. Whether by design or not, he hasn’t much bothered Hollywood since (aside from voicing Prince Charming in a couple of the Shrek movies). It would seem that at this stage of his career, he’s decided to make his own opportunities. His directorial debut is The Happy Prince, a biopic of Oscar Wilde in which he also plays the poet. Actors casting themselves as the lead in their own film sets off warning bells of a vanity project, but this is not what is happening here. As Wilde, Everett is good. In fact, he’s very good, even though with his scraggly hair, hat and coat he can look rather a lot like Tom Baker as Dr Who from certain angles.
As with many biopics, the action in The Happy Prince begins towards the end of its subject’s life, jumping backwards in time for curated highlights. Wilde stumbles around Paris during his final weeks in a haze, with his robust personality and detached attitude masking a ravaged inner life. The film touches upon the writer’s relationship with his wife Constance (a wonderfully stoic Emily Watson), his friendships with Reggie Turner (Colin Firth) and Robbie Ross (Edwin Thomas), two of the few people who stood by the poet upon his release from prison. There’s also a fair amount of Wilde’s tumultuous and sensual relationship with Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas (Colin Morgan).
Everett is beguiling as Wilde, exuding lubricious charm. And this is perhaps how Wilde was, somewhat exploitative when examined objectively, but profoundly talented and charismatic. The English actor has delivered a restrained, lean debut, carefully composing a portrait of the man that is exhaustive without being expansive. The Happy Prince is a film that takes the viewer on an interesting, meandering stroll that only has the occasional stumble, since it can feel a tad overcooked in places. During an argument, Bosie tells Wilde that underneath his pose, he has no substance. This is happily not the case with Everett’s highly enjoyable and sublimely moving tribute.
The Happy Prince does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival 2018.