Dorian Gray (2009)

“Picture Perfect” 8/10

I have to admit, I had my doubts about this movie at first. After reading the odd couple of reviews, I wasn’t entirely sure if this film was for me. I am not a fan of horror and, like quite a few people I suspect, was put off slightly by the “horror” classification that most reviews seemed to mention. However, as it turns out, it is not like your conventional thriller.

I enjoyed the book and think that the film compares well, and the story is extremely enjoyable. A young man who trades his soul to the devil in exchange for eternal youth and beauty, after seeing an incredibly lifelike portrait of him, does not seem entirely unrealistic given today’s cult of appearance-obsessed celebrity youth, and in fact most of the film stuck to the realms of reality. Set against a beautiful Victorian style backdrop of London, the film managed to mirror life through a visually delightful time period that managed to modernise itself in its content, and maintained a nice contrast between light and dark throughout.

I was also thoroughly impressed with the casting. Ben Barnes was the perfect choice for Dorian Gray himself, managing the conversion between the innocent young man, to the seductive charmer, to the fear-possessed psychopath effortlessly. Add that to the fact that he is breathtakingly perfect, and even as an audience you begin to be drawn into his youth and extreme beauty. Colin Firth was unlike anything I’ve ever seen him in before, much in contrast with his cheery Mamma Mia (2008) role, as he played Dorian’s enticer, Lord Henry. Harsh and often sexist, he very much had a “Frankenstein’s creator” character, desperately striving to corrupt Dorian’s innocent nature. Ben Chaplain was also good as the creator of Dorian’s special portrait, Basil. And then of course there were Dorian’s two main love interests, Rachel Hurd-Wood and Rebecca Hall, both of their characters bringing contrasting characters to Dorian’s affections.

As for the content of the film, it had what I believe most good films should contain – a shock. And it certainly shocked. It opens with a scene which you are certainly not expecting, but succeeds in capturing your interest for sure. It then falls into a kind of lull as we meet the innocent and gorgeous Ben Barnes, but then hypes up again as we are introduced to rude and obnoxious Colin Firth. The film continues in this fashion for the majority of the time, with a few unexpected shocks along the way as Dorian begins his soul destructing spiral. There is obvious sexual content but It Is certainly not excessive and plenty of mild drug and alcohol abuse too, although again the film does not go overboard with these. Also, there is a reasonable amount of gore, although not enough to spoil your enjoyment of the film, and these moments are also fairly obvious and so the squeamish (including I) can simply close their eyes during these short scenes. The only other thing to mention is the horror which occurs at the end of the film. I personally didn’t watch this bit and would certainly recommend to those who don’t enjoy being scared to not watch it either, as it is apparently rather intense, but again, it is also fairly obvious of when it will occur.

Dorian Gray is a fabulous, fast paced drama-thriller that provokes thought into our own “celebrity” lifestyle and the pressures we put on appearance, as well as a visual description of the price of eternal beauty on the soul. I would definitely recommend this film – it is truly picture perfect.

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