March 15, 2006

Depp Gets Down and Dirty in The Libertine

At the beginning of The Libertine, Johnny Depp as the Earl of Rochester warns the viewer that we will not like him. (He doesn't mention that we might not like the film either, but it was implied.) And EoR does a great job thereafter of doing everything humanly possible to ensure that we don’t... like him, that is. Tramping through muddy streets and orgy-infested St. James Park, he sneers constantly, makes nasty comments, ridicules his friends (though they seem to like it), treats his wife shabbily, leads his young male friend and lover into a desperate situation and then leaves him to die. Yes, The Libertine is certainly dark and the Earl’s miserable attitude rings true. What else were Aristocrats up to during the Restoration? With a backlash against Puritanism in full effect they apparently had nothing else to occupy their free time besides the theatre, prostitutes, and pondering philosophical questions about happiness and love (you know, they didn't have Walmart or television to entertain them). But watching it through an entire movie is exhausting, particularly when the dialogue is not as clever as it thinks it is. Then, just when you think the Earl is on his deathbed, like a psychotic killer in a slasher movie, he’s back up hobbling about for a last battle before succumbing, to syphilis of course. His good looks consumed on the outside just as bitterness has eaten away at his soul. Though, even severely pockmarked with his “flesh” peeling from his face, Depp manages to look hideously beautiful. That, plus the sets and costumes, make this worthy of a spot on your Netflix queue--just don't say he didn't warn you. A better, more complete review here. --Kim

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