Our featured biographical film for this week's Reel vs. Real installment takes our readers back to the late 1880s, and invites them to explore the controversial life of Irish writer and poet Oscar Wilde.
Oscar Wilde remains a well-known name in the realm of classic literature, but perhaps, not many who are familiar with his his epigrams, plays, and only novel know the story of his life. The 1997 British biographical film Wilde should be able to provide an insight into the passions that fueled his work and the controversies that surrounded his rather short life.
Based on the 1987 biography written by Richard Ellmann, the film begins its tale with Oscar Wilde’s (Stephen Fry) speaking tour in the American West, giving viewers a taste of the urbane wit and flamboyant personality the Victorian poet became known for. The biopic also delved on Wilde’s personal life, from his marriage to Constance Lloyd (Jennifer Ehle) with whom he had two sons; to his encounter with Robbie Ross (Michael Sheen), the young Canadian who was instrumental to his realization of his homosexuality; and finally, to his passionate relationship with the handsome poet Lord Alfred Douglas (Jude Law).
Of course, the film made mention of Wilde’s works, such as his plays Lady Windermere’s Fan and The Importance of Being Earnest, and a well-loved story entitled The Selfish Giant.
As for Wilde’s cinematic counterpart, there could not have been a better choice to portray the poet, as New York Times noted that “Stephen Fry looks uncannily like Wilde and presents an edgy mixture of superciliousness and vulnerability.” Chicago Sun-Times likewise lauded Fry’s casting, saying that a fine actor such as him “is important, because the film requires him to show many conflicting aspects of Wilde’s life . . . [He] brings a depth and gentleness to the role.”
Watch the trailer for Wilde below:
A series made for cinephiles, Reel vs. Real highlights some notable biographical films that you may or may not have watched, and puts the biopic actors side by side with their real life counterparts.