"Sad Tale of Homosexual Hedonism"
THE HAPPY PRINCE takes viewers back to the turn of the last century, more than 115 years ago in Paris. Playwright and satirical humorist Oscar Wilde has been released from prison after being sentenced to hard labor for two years because of a homosexual love affair. The people who will still communicate with him have to disguise his real identity for his own protection. His wife won’t speak to him or allow him to see his children. Once a wealthy and famous author, he’s is now penniless and at the mercy of those around him.
Wilde emerges from prison claiming to be a changed man. He says that he found Christ and that he refuses to go back to Lord Alfred Douglas, or “Bosie,” the man whose affair imprisoned him in the first place. He proves it to himself and his friends by tearing up a letter from Bosie and tossing it in the fireplace, only to retrieve it and piece it back together after his friends are gone.
Oscar and Alfred meet again and are able to easily remember their feelings that they had long before. They are soon inseparable and are denied their allowance because of it. Oscar hasn’t written anything new in a while and has been ostracized from his family and finances. Alfred’s mother offers to pay Oscar a sum to convince the men to separate from each other. Turning it down, Oscar leaves Alfred in anger.
Having the taste for champagne, but lacking the means to acquire it, Oscar sits at cafes alone adding to his bill but cannot leave because he cannot pay. He’s slowly making his way towards crossing over to the afterlife. Lying on his deathbed, he tells the story of “The Happy Prince,” an allegory by Wilde showing that God loves those who love their fellow human beings, especially those who help the poor and needy.
The story of “The Happy Prince” is told by Wilde to various people throughout the movie, but it is in no way a metaphor or a reflection of the way he lived his life in the movie, other than when the bird died in the story, he died in the movie. Toward the end, Wilde tries to help these two young brothers who are poor and struggling. He gives them money once to buy himself and them breakfast. It was to them that he was telling the final part of the Happy Prince story. However, in the movie, he also gave them alcohol and cocaine although the younger brother couldn’t have been more than 13.
For THE HAPPY PRINCE, Rupert Everett completely transforms for this role of Oscar Wilde, someone who he has admired for most of his life. Also taking on the responsibility of writer and director, Everett puts forth an admirable work of art. Showcasing the last few years of this renowned author shines a new light on the truth of the tragic way his life ended. Being a period piece, the audience is easily taken back into that world more than 115 years ago (Wilde died in 1900). The movie opens with Wilde on his deathbed while he feverishly thinks about the past events in his life, especially the three years of degradation after he’s released from prison. As a result, there are many flashbacks, and these flashbacks detract from the experience of watching THE HAPPY PRINCE.
Also, THE HAPPY PRINCE contains an extremely high amount of questionable content. From the very beginning, viewers are introduced to the immoral life that Oscar Wilde lived. There is an exorbitant amount of sexual content, nudity and drug and alcohol use. Although there is mention of finding Christ, there is no evidence of this supposed change of heart. At the very end of his life, Wilde is baptized and taken into the Catholic church. Reportedly, the real priest who administered the last rights found Wilde’s contrition while reciting his repentance to be sincere, but Wilde’s behavior in the movie doesn’t reflect that.
All in all, therefore, media-wise viewers will find THE HAPPY PRINCE unacceptable and abhorrent.
THE HAPPY PRINCE captures the life of well-known author Oscar Wilde when he’s released from jail in 1897, after being convicted of homosexual affairs. This movie shows a dark side to the man, who was thought of as a genius, but lived and eventually died for his hedonistic lusts. Instead of returning to his wife with regret after his release, he continues to see the feckless man with whom he was having an affair before his imprisonment. With little money, Oscar relies on the good will of the people around him who will still accept him and who continue to love him.
Rupert Everett delivers an excellent performance as Oscar Wilde in THE HAPPY PRINCE. His performance is close to perfect, showcasing the depth and darkness of this man. As a period piece, THE HAPPY PRINCE is quite well done, but there are too many flashbacks that take away from the story’s drama. Also, THE HAPPY PRINCE contains lots of questionable content, including a strong Romantic worldview, multiple homosexual affairs and excessive substance abuse. Consequently, MOVIEGUIDE® finds THE HAPPY PRINCE totally unacceptable morally.