Never have more homosexuals been seen on the screen achieving ecstasy in the missionary position. Will wonders never cease? No bumboys these, neither sodomites nor cornholers nor plugpokers shall ever darken the screen of this production, financed, as a possible matter of interest to some, in part by the BBC. (One recalls, unfortuately, the scene that had to be edited out of Jarman's Edward II because two men were seen naked together in one bed.) No, these jolly boys just seem somehow simply to be nice fellows who got it the wrong way around and probably really only want (or need) a woman beside (underneath?) them. The most risque shot is that of Bosie standing in a room with his derriere in full glory. (If someone involved with this project is anxious and shying away from any promotion of "the love that dare not speak its name," then why do they dwell so lengthily on the arse and damn the genitalia? Hasn't it occurred to someone that the backdoor shutter might possibly have a certain appeal to some sodomites?)

Oscar Wilde (Stephen Fry) returns from the United States and Canada to marry Constance Lloyd (Jennifer Ehle) with whom he is destined to have two children. Having achieved fame through his decadent novella "The Picture of Dorian Gray," he follows other pursuits. Fry ponces around like a flacid, placid Belgian vlan, coyly casting his roundish eyes semi-masochistically upward every time he addresses anyone. Due to Fry's natural height, this also often necessitates a hunching of the shoulders and bending downward of the neck in order to achieve the effect. After Wilde embracingly plays host to the Canadian house guest and homosexual Robert Ross (Michael Sheen), the friendly lodger returns the favor by making Oscar an offer he couldn't refuse. Oscar was, of course, once an English schoolboy and had experienced, during those young and fruitful days, feelings which left their mark on him. Once out of the closet, Oscar felt exceedingly gay, but the people around him regarded him in a distinctly Victorian way.

Once Lady Windermere's Fan opened, to use a turn of phrase, the man with the green carnation was reintroduced to Lord Alfred Douglas (Jude Law), who wore the nickname "Bosie," but might just as easily have been called "Narcissus" or "Nemesis." Oscar loved the Greek underworld until he had his ears boxed by Bosie's father, the Marquess of Queensbury (Tom Wilkinson), and was sent to Reading Gaol. One might easily have forseen what the outcome of the renowned court case would be, given the time and place, after Queensbury (who never changed his title) left the famous card reading "To Oscar Wilde, posing Somdomite (sic)." Oscar was not the kind of person who liked to be referred to as "posing". (Thank heaven, times change. Nowadays, we'd probably have a lobby outside the courthouse carrying banners reading "Queensbury buries queens.")

With scandal afoot, Wilde's wife left England with their children and changed the family name. When times got hard, Bosie was no longer. There was nothing left for Oscar, eventually, but to move to Paris. He would undoubtedly turn in his grave, despite the massive block weighing him down in Pere Lachaise, if he had even the slightest inkling of what the cinema would been doing to him once he left our midst.

Acclaimed writer Julian Mitchell as well as a notable cast and crew would have been better off spending the production schedule on vacation in Bruge.

What can I say? De Profundis? Surely not.

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett