Dorian Gray (2009)

dorian2017.9: Dorian Gray

The moral of this story is- don’t make a deal with the devil, and you can have too much of a good thing. If that sounds nothing new, then that sums up the somewhat limited appeal of this movie.It is the familiar old story The Picture of Dorian Gray retold, er, yet again. It really is a case of a movie being haunted by the familiar.

Very often the argument (such as there is one) for movies to revisit old stories and earlier movies is the new technologies available- usually these days cgi imaging opening possibilities unavailable to earlier films. While this argument works for movies like the recent Planet of the Apes series reboot, it’s hard to tell where any such argument lies with something like Dorian Gray (although, unfortunately, this film too cannot resist one too many trips to the cgi effects sin bin at the films end, with the painting threatening to come to life like some liquid Terminator). I guess modern-day censorship sensibilities allow films such as this to be more graphic about the debauchery and excess that the title character succumbs to, but even then, time has passed it by, with  material such as this casualy screened on television cable networks.

Indeed the last point is even more telling for Dorian Gray, as its more than just a little curious coming to this film having previously watched the (sadly missed) gothic horror series Penny Dreadful, which this film actually predates.  Dorian Gray suffers from looking and feeling so much like Penny Dreadful while being inferior to it- a sure sign of how far television is moving these days as that series looks superior in quality by some margin.  Moreover, there is also the issue that Penny Dreadful features Dorian Gray as one of the series’ major characters. It only reinforces the feeling of having seen it all before.

Its a shame. But then again, I’m coming to it as someone in 2017 watching a 2009 movie for the first time, so my comments may be unfair as they cannot help but reflect having seen the superior Penny Dreadful prior. Its not a bad watch by any means, and the cast are pretty good; Ben Barnes is a beautiful forever-young Dorian who starts as a naive newcomer to the social elite who is channeled to an ill-end by the hedonistic Lord Henry, played by Colin Firth in one of his better roles. Abetted by a pleasant turn by Ben Chaplin who plays the artist whose work inspires the ill-fated deal with the devil, on the whole it’s a fine-looking film with a good cast. Its not a bad film, it just feels so unnecessary.

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