THE HAPPY PRINCE – A Review by Cynthia Flores
This is the year for directorial debuts by famous actors where they also write and do the lead acting as well. That’s a lot of heavy lifting to do for one person, but the rewards can be great if they pull it off. In the new film, The Happy Prince, which was a passion project for Rupert Everett, he shows unique flair and promise in his newly chosen field of writing and directing. As for the acting portion he always has, and will still nail that part.
The film is a total art-house flick and will probably not be the choice of audiences that prefer fast cuts, explosions, and a catchy soundtrack. Instead, we see a film about world-renowned author Oscar Wilde (Rupert Everett) at the time around the1890s at the height of his fame and success when The Importance of Being Ernest was still being performed in London. The film uses time shifting to tell its story well from three periods of his life: the time period of the height of his success and happiness with his family including two sons, the time period of his criminal charges for gross indecency with men (being gay was a crime on the books back then) leading to his two years in prison with hard labor, and the time period of his release from prison and life in France where he died destitute in Paris at the young age of forty-six.
The director chose to weave back and forth between these time periods where Oscars’ love affair with Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas (Colin Morgan) brought him to ruin using his main character telling a children's story he wrote and would often recite to his two sons. In the good times, it’s his own loving children we see him telling the story to and in the hard times, it’s two kids that live on the streets in Paris that he has befriended.
For those of you that do not know the children's story it goes something like this: “In a town where a lot of poor people suffer and are poor, a swallow who was left behind after his flock flew off to Egypt for the winter, meets the statue of the late "Happy Prince," who in reality has never experienced true sorrow, for he lived in a palace where sorrow was not allowed to enter. Viewing various scenes of people suffering in poverty from his tall monument, the Happy Prince asks the swallow to take the ruby from his hilt, the sapphires from his eyes, and the golden leaf covering his body to give to the poor. As the winter comes and the Happy Prince is stripped of all of his beauty, his lead heart breaks when the swallow dies as a result of his selfless deeds and severe cold. The statue is then brought down from the pillar and melted in a furnace leaving behind the broken heart. It and the dead swallow are thrown in a dust heap. They’re taken up to heaven by an angel that has deemed them the two most precious things in the city. God then blesses them, and they live forever in his city of gold and garden of paradise.” This story ties the whole film together from beginning to end. It’s a poetic choice that this children's story runs through the portrayal of carnal delights and the awful consequences paid for them.
The cinematography for this movie is lush, and the timing and storytelling techniques of the film are much like a poem itself, with its internal rhythms and meters playing before our very eyes. The Happy Prince is a not for everyone but will be enjoyed by the audience that seeks it out. I give this film a B+ rating.
Directed by Rupert Everett
Written By Rupert Everett
Selig Rating B+
Running Time 1hr 45 min
Drama / Biography
Limited Release October 19th Angelika Film Center Dallas and Plano
Starring: Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Emily Watson, Colin Morgan, Edwin Thomas, Tom Wilkinson
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.