The Happy Prince

Looking for happiness, stage right.

As a very funny gay person who never has enough money, I am the target audience for an Oscar Wilde biopic. But despite Rupert Everett’s passion as writer, director, and star — this is clearly the movie he was born to make — “The Happy Prince” is a lugubrious slog. It begins after Wilde has spent two years in prison for “gross indecency” (as they called homosexuality in those days), breaking his spirit and ruining his career. He’s penniless and ill, living as an “exiled fairy,” borrowing money from friends and strangers while trying sadly to maintain his dandyish lifestyle. He still comes up with droll witticisms regularly, though they’ve taken a dark turn. (Of his time in prison he says, “One never speaks, one simply weeps and has diarrhea.”) Except in very brief, dreamlike flashbacks, we never see him as a beloved public figure, never see what made him “Oscar Wilde.” It’s like a movie about the Titanic that only focuses on what happened after it sank. Everett tells the story in a non-linear fashion, like a dying fever dream, which is disorienting but not in a good way — following along is a chore, and we never get a good sense of who Wilde was. It’s just a recitation of events. It’s sincere, but let’s not overstate the importance of being earnest.

Crooked Marquee

C (1 hr., 45 min.; R, sexual content, graphic nudity, language and brief drug use.)