In ‘The Happy Prince,’ Rupert Everett plays a role so suited to him that I cannot imagine anyone else playing it. He plays Oscar Wilde, but in the latter years of his life, after he gets out of jail charged with a crime of being a homosexual. Everette nails the character, conveying hope, despair, and at the same time capturing his essence of being gay. Here he is, with a partner, proposing to hustlers, and just having a gay old time. I don’t think Wilde has ever been portrayed with such honesty in his gayness, and of course, Everett is the only actor who can give that justice. For example, he just doesn’t play Wilde as a simple drunk old man, you can see a lot more in his eyes that gives Wilde a lot more texture. I am pretty sure his performance will end up as one of my favorites for the year.
Everett also write and directed this film. I admit to being a little confused by the jumping timelines. And the writing could be heavy handed (he lingers a little too long on the part where Wilde becomes a destitute has been) but Everett has a great knack for keeping things going – scenes blend seamlessly with each other, edited vigorously MTV-style. The costumes and scenery are first rate.
And he also has assembled a fine cast. Colin Morgan makes the character of Lord Alfred Bosie Douglas a lot more sympathetic than he has been portrayed in the past, and I love the sensitivity of Edwin Thomas as Robbie Ross, Wilde’s long-suffering friend.
I do have to admit some scenes went a little over my head. This film is not for the Oscar Wilde beginner: there are anecdotes and references I did not quite get, and I think I would benefit from a second viewing of the film. But in the end, I will just learn new things so it’s all good.