This is one of the ugliest films I have ever seen.
I mean that as a compliment.
The opening line of the monolougue stands for the entire film. By the way, the opening and closing of the film is ... perfect. For a movie that centers a lot of its plot around the theatre, it is a perfect thought to have a prolougue and an epilougue. Not to mention, that they are delievered flawlessly by Johnny Depp.
The story is about the last great leg of the short life of John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester (Depp). He was ... unconventional. This tells the tale of his meeting Elizabeth Barry (Samantha Morton), the play he wrote for King Charles II (John Malkovich), and his subsequent downfall.
This movie is steeped in mud, piss, rain, fog, candles, sex, and theater. That about sums it up, except to say that it is brilliantly seeped in those things. I think this movie is to be a guilty pleasure. It is full of the debauchery that I usualy really dislike in films - but this movie needs it.
Like I said, it is not a beautiful film. I encourage the young to see it as part of a sex-ed class. Kinda of a warning. Compliment to the make-up crew of this film - Rochester with syphillis is a disgusting sight.
But for all of it's vices, there are just as many virtues. You don't feel as though you are watching a costume drama. This movie is so real, it's disturbing. The acting is fantastic, the direction and cinematography is key, and the artistic design is so perfectly done. Oh, and the writing. Oh yes, the writing. This movie has some of the most intricate and witty writing. A perfect reflection of the wit of the Restoration period. People don't think that the past is as steeped in sex as we are now, but the Restoration was marinaded in sex. Overt, yes, and certainly grotesque.
Of course, my very favorite parts were in the theatre. What I wouldn't give to step on to a stage like that. What was most drawing to me was Rochester's admirtation for the theatre, which is interesting because he likes nothing else - not even the whores and wine he is so fond of. He carries a distaste for almost everything he does with him. Both the character and the actor. Depp is once again, fascinating in his role. A perfect measure of sex, disgust, wit, honesty, and treachery. As he says in the opening, you do not like him, but you, like everyone else, can not help but be fascinated by him - you can't look away.
Malkovich is as interesting as he is in all of his roles. Again, like Depp, here is an actor of great variety. I haven't seen a lot of his works, but what I have seen I admire, if I do not like. He doesn't always play the likeable character, in fact, usually the opposite. His characters usually seem hard, but somehow endearing... no, endearing is the wrong word, but I can't think of what I mean, so you get the just of the idea. Morton is perfectly apt for the role. I don't know what to think of her as an actress. Something tells me that I have seen her in something before, but I can't place it. She is fitting to the role without being extraordinary. It could also be that I am blinded to her by her character, because I REALLY did not like her character. As much as she loves the theatre, and is good; she is also a selfish artist who wants nothing but her fame, and she is also a traitor, although not a very successful one. The one person that really caught my eye was the person who played Rochester's wife (Rosamund Pike). Later I realized that she was in the new Pride and Prejudice movie. She was quite powerful - but again, I might have been mostly taken by her character. Small though the role is, the character is one of the few "good" things in the story. And her devotion (despite her hatred of her husband's vices) for her husband is so touching (and a little raunchy, considering their beginning).
All in all, I praise the film, but it really isn't my type of thing. Again, brilliant, but ugly.
3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars