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Colin Morgan (left) as Alfred Boise Douglas and Rupert Everett as Oscar Wilde in The Happy Prince.

The Happy Prince

Directed by Rupert Everett

Written by Rupert Everett

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Starring: Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Emily Watson, Colin Morgan, Edwin Thomas

Classification: 14A; 105 minutes

rating

Rupert Everett delivers an award-worthy performance as Oscar Wilde.

Despite his famous deathbed quote on the subject, wallpaper was the least of Oscar Wilde’s problems.

A new biopic from Wilde-enthusiast Rupert Everett is a lovely work of empathy, about a former toast of the town who was just toast at his shabby Paris hotel-room end. Everett writes, directs and stars in The Happy Prince, named after Wilde’s short story about the mystery of misery.

A gentle meditation on reduced circumstances, the film is set in the late 19th century, following the Irish poet-playwright’s humiliating jailing in London for “gross indecency with men,” or conspicuous homosexuality. In exile in Europe, Wilde applies rouge to his lips and cheeks, out for a night of absinthe, cocaine and a “purple moment.” And although the bon mots maestro is mocked, spat on and short of cash, he is played as someone still proud despite his status drop and drained literary might.

The cast is solid; Everett’s acting in particular is deep, indelible and award-worthy. We smell Oscar, one might say.

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