Welcome to A-Z Movie Reviews. Every Sunday, for the next several months, I will be posting a review of a film in my home movie collection. How it works is, I will be reviewing movies in alphabetical order until I get to the letter Z (Yes, I do have a film that ends in Z). Now I realize there are many ways to alphabetize a film collection, but this is mine so don’t judge me. This is simply for fun.
Before we get into this installment of A-Z Movie Reviews, I have to give you a little backstory. This week we’re talking about the film Dorian Gray starring Ben Barnes. My sister has always been a fan of Ben Barnes. Since the moment she saw him as Prince Caspian in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian in 2008, she’s devoured everything he’s been in and Dorian Gray was her go to for ages. I knew of him because of her and she ended up turning me into a fan because she would watch this film over and over. I was extremely impressed by his acting plus, he was super handsome. Okay, enough of my backstory, let’s get to the movie shall we?
What it’s about:
A corrupt young man somehow keeps his youthful beauty eternally, but a special painting gradually reveals his inner ugliness to all.
I’m not a fan of this particular blurb only because Dorian doesn’t start off as a corrupt young man. At the start of the film, he is a sweet, naïve young man who after the death of his abusive grandfather, comes home to London because he has inherited his estate. Dorian is trying to find a way to fit into the aristocratic world he’s suddenly been thrust into and when he meets Lord Henry “Harry” Wotton (Colin Firth) his life drastically changes.
Harry has a preoccupation with youth and because Dorian is so young, he likes to remind him of that, and basically tells him he can do anything he wants because the world belongs to him. Dorian tries to remain virtuous, but Harry is quite persistent and shows him a world of hedonistic pleasures that he just can’t resist.
Dorian is introduced to one of Harrys friends Basil Hallward (Ben Chaplin) who is a renowned artist. Basil paints a picture of Dorian to capture the beauty of his youth. Harry tells Dorian that the photo will always remain youthful as he begins to age.
As Dorian stares at the painting, he makes the statement “Perhaps I should nail my soul to the devil’s altar” in order to remain as youthful as the painting. Harry doesn’t think Dorian is serious and asks him if he would actually sell his soul to remain young. Dorian without hesitation replies with a resounding yes.
That pledge changes Dorians life in ways he never expected. Life seems great at first. He’s living the life he wants without any consequences. He doesn’t age or get sick but his painting always reveals his true nature. As he continues to live a life of debauchery, the painting grows more and more grotesque and we start to see things like maggots falling out of it and it begins to take on a life of its own.
Dorian has to hide the painting away because no one can ever know the secret or see his true state. If you have read Oscar Wilde’s book The Picture of Dorian Gray which obviously this film is based on, you know how it turns out, if not, we’ll stop here because this film really is a great one to check out.
Ben Barnes is an incredible actor and this is one of my favorite roles of his. I love the way he plays Dorian because you can really see the change in him throughout every stage of the film. At the beginning, he’s a young man who is kind but after he sells his soul to the devil to remain young, his personality changes to a conceited, callous, man.
What I loved even more was when he returns to London after being gone for 25 years. Although his outward appearance has not changed, he is an old man and Ben portrays that well. He carries himself in a totally different way that is the way an old man would. It just feels different to look at him once he has returned.
Dorian Gray is such an entertaining film, and one of the biggest takeaways is no matter what we do to remain young, we can never truly stop the aging process. Dorian sold his soul to remain youthful but every ugly deed he committed ultimately caught up to him.