The Happy Prince is the directorial debut of Rupert Everett, known for acting in films such as My Best Friend’s Wedding and Inspector Gadget. In the movie, Everett stars as famous poet and playwright Oscar Wilde after he is cast out of society because of his homosexuality.
This film offers a thoroughly interesting snapshot of the society in which it is set, though it also sadly and eerily rings true in today’s society. Thankfully, the literal exile of people due to their sexual orientation has ended in most parts of the world; however, there is still a large amount of discrimination against these human beings. As such, Wilde’s story is just as important now as it was then.
The story is certainly emotionally affecting, as over the course of the movie, the audience comes to sympathize with Wilde as a person that has been mistreated by society. The film makes the wise decision of not introducing Wilde in his prime, instead throwing the audience straight into his struggle. An early scene in which Wilde asks for a handout from a once adoring fan establishes and cements an emotional connection.
The story also does a good job of creating subplots that effectively mirror elements of the main plot. For example, the plot about the two younger boys on the street does a good job of further developing the storyline about Wilde’s desire to reconcile with his sons. The story with Robbie Ross complements the story with Alfred Douglas well.
That being said, the story does lack clarity at times. The plot is somewhat muddled, jumping between different times in Wilde’s life, often without justification. A few of the supporting characters are also left underdeveloped. The character Reggie jumps out as a character that seemed to be important but had no real impact on the story.
The performances are the absolute highlight of the film, though. Rupert Everett’s performance is phenomenal. His passion for the project shows in his dedication to the role. He truly nails both the positives and negatives of Wilde’s life and personality. Everett captures both the caustic wit for which Wilde was known for much of his life and the bleak cynicism that came with his exile.
The supporting cast is also quite impressive. Colin Morgan, who plays Alfred Douglas, is a clear standout. He has some truly great scenes and excellent chemistry with Everett. Edwin Thomas is also strong in his supporting role. Emily Watson, Colin Firth, and Tom Wilkinson all give solid turns too, but are underused.
Overall, The Happy Prince is a very good movie. Despite some flaws in the script, the story is compelling, and the film is well-made as a whole, driven by great performances.
The Happy Prince is now playing in select theaters nationwide.