The Happy Prince

Written and directed by the talented actor Rupert Everett in his directorial debut, The Happy Prince is a terrifically well-crafted independent film exploring the tragic final days of the world-renowned playwright and author Oscar Wilde brought to life by the transformative performance of Rupert Everett. The plot tells the mostly untold story of Oscar Wilde’s downfall after being imprisoned with hard labor for two years in 1895 when the United Kingdom found him guilty of committing homosexual acts, which at the time was illegal, and it would not be until 2017 that Oscar Wilde along with 50,000 other convicted gay men would be pardoned. Exiled to Europe following his release in 1897, Wilde, played by Rupert Everett in his greatest performance of his career, tries to scrape by after clearly being tormented in prison and is continually vilified by those back in the UK. He lives for a time in Naples, Italy with his former young and handsome lover Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas, played by Colin Morgan, who was part of the reason that Wilde was caught and convicted for being a homosexual. At the same time, another former lover and his current literary executor Robbie Ross, played by Edwin Thomas, tries to find sympathetic people who can financially support Oscar Wilde’s life, and he encourages him to avoid scandal for business and personal reasons. Robbie is also somewhat jealous of Alfred who captivates the notoriously wild Wilde’s attention once again. Although these two men in addition to the novelist Reggie Turner, played by Academy Award winner Colin Firth who has collaborated in several other movies with Everett, do their best to keep him out of trouble, his life quickly spirals out of control. Towards the end of his life, he lives off the streets of Paris after being disinherited by almost everyone, including his estranged wife played by Emily Watson. The movie also includes several flashbacks to Oscar Wilde’s better days when he was a warmly embraced celebrity throughout the world; these scenes illustrate the juxtaposition of how far such an illustrious writer as Oscar Wilde can be brought down by society’s disdainful view of homosexuality. Neither a happy story or one about a charming prince, the film is truly noteworthy for the astounding Rupert Everett who is drastically different from his usual role as the handsome and vivacious character in such movies as 1997’s My Best Friend’s Wedding for which he received a Golden Globe nomination. Everett is fully immersed in his performance and is almost physically unrecognizable as a downtrodden, overweight, and sickly man nearing the end of his troubled life. Overall, I found it to be a fascinating glimpse into one of the most important writers in history and the often overlooked tragedies that he experienced in his life realistically portrayed by the magnificent Rupert Everett. On another note, I had the privilege of seeing Rupert Everett in person who provided great insight into how this film has been a passion project for him, especially as a homosexual man, and the difficulty of capturing the famously witty Oscar Wilde without becoming a caricature.

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