Friday 24 May 2019

Film of the week: The Happy Prince

Cert: 15A; Now showing

Rupert Everett plays a crumpled Oscar Wilde in 'The Happy Prince'
Rupert Everett plays a crumpled Oscar Wilde in 'The Happy Prince'
Ann Skelly in Kissing Candice

You've got to hand it to Rupert Everett. For this passion project, the none-more-plummy English actor, author and now director has chosen Oscar Wilde's shuffling demise as the point of focus of a biopic.

This is somewhat new territory for Wilde depictions on the big screen. Brian Gilbert's Wilde (1997) saw Stephen Fry play the peerless Dublin writer in his heyday before charting his affair with Lord Alfred 'Bosie' Douglas. Similarly, Oscar Wilde and The Trials of Oscar Wilde (both released in 1960) concentrated on the courtroom crucifying he endured.

Everett's screenplay, however, goes for the all-out disintegration of Wilde's body, heart and mind during his exile on the Continent in the aftermath of the trial. It turns out to be a wise move, with Wilde's gallows humour and smirking remorse amplifying the poignancy of not only his own tragic fundamental flaws, but also what the world was about to lose forever.

Everett here plays a creased and crumpled version of Wilde looking in the rear-view mirror. We see him down-and-out in Paris and Naples, living off the charity of devotees so that he might continue the whirlwind of booze, boys and bon mots to which he is accustomed. A tug-of-war is also playing out between Bosie (Colin Morgan) and executor and confidant Robbie Ross (Edwin Thomas) for the ailing man's affections.

There is much to appreciate here, not least a tangible sense of the era and a fine support cast that includes Colin Firth and Emily Watson. Everett can over-ice the cake, but while his turn does skirt the fringes of hamminess, it is undeniably laced with sensitivity. ★★★★ Hilary A White

Kissing Candice

Ann Skelly in Kissing Candice

Cert: 18; Selected cinemas

Much has been made of the certification of this feature debut by celebrated music promo and advert filmmaker Aoife McArdle. While the UK classification office deemed this tale - of a cloistered girl caught up in the attentions of a dangerous local gang - a solid 15s rating, our IFCO has given it an 18 cert. Its website gives Kissing Candice a "strong" scoring in all four of its categories - violence, drugs, sex/nudity and language.

While the film does revolve around the engagement by teenagers in these acts, the certification is baffling and to call it explicit in any way is a stretch. It also means that a very stylish and enigmatic Irish film won't be seen as widely as it perhaps could have been.

The Candice of the title (Red Rock's Ann Skelly) is 17 and trapped in a rain-sodden seaside town up near the Border. She dreams romantic dreams about a young man (Ryan Lincoln), and even when the same youth turns out to be a reluctant member of a local gang of ne'er-do-wells, she is drawn to him, and he to her. Sadly, this catches the attention of the other brutes as well as Candice's garda father (John Lynch).

McArdle - who writes and directs here - has her best work ahead of her but Kissing Candice is a promising start. As is her wont, she is intent on mood, with atmosphere, cinematography and soundtrack reigning over proceedings, but at the expense of the story. If she ever decides to shore up that side of things, Irish cinema may find a bold new voice. ★★★ Hilary A White

In The Fade

Cert: 16; Now showing

Katja (Diane Kruger) is happily married to Nuri, a Turkish gent who is now a model of respectability after doing time for drug dealing. The couple live in Hamburg with a young son, whom Katja drops off at Nuri's office one afternoon. When she returns to the neighbourhood that evening, however, the area is cordoned off following a bomb blast that has claimed two lives.

Police identify the victims as her husband and son. She naturally begins to unravel with the bleak news, returning to substance abuse and suicidal ideation, until, that is, she learns that police have two suspects in custody. She now is intent on pursuing them in the murder trial to see whether justice will prevail or if she will have to take matters into her own hands.

Fatih Akin's thriller has received plaudits from several awards and festivals, including a Best Actress gong from the 2017 Cannes jury for Kruger's visceral, taut performance as a woman facing into oblivion. The German star is pretty much in every scene here, and is never less than utterly compelling throughout.

In The Fade's finest act is undoubtedly its second, where some rip-roaring courtroom drama is played out. Either side of that, there are slumps of melodrama that do the film no favours, especially given its ability to ratchet up intensity when it wants to. With the title lifted from one of their songs, Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme is on score duties. ★★★ Hilary A White


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