Dorian Gray: The Good, The Charming, The Scary

I first encountered Dorian Gray not as the classic literature piece but as a character in the movie League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Then played by the dashing Stuart Townsend, I had no clue what his special powers were or why he was part of the Extraordinary Gentlemen {of course after the movie, I knew already}. I knew though that he was an important fictional character in the world of Literature and vowed to look for a copy but found none.

M: You could stay, you know. Share my dream.
Dorian Gray: I've lived long enough to see the future become history, Professor. Empires crumble. There are no exceptions.
M: You think you're better than me. You forget: I've seen your painting. 

In 2009, in the movie 500 Days of Summer, Summer says that while she was reading Dorian Gray {by Oscar Wilde}, her future husband walked by and changed her life. I, of course, did not want a copy in the hopes of finding my future husband but it just fanned the flame of desire to read the book even more. 

Two weeks ago, me and my friend Tin trooped to the South for our movie fix and thus I got a-hold of a copy of Dorian Gray starring Ben Barnes, Colin Firth and Rachel Hurd-Wood. I had no idea there already was a movie {remake} of it so I grabbed it and took it home, and watched it after more than two weeks because I was scared that no matter how intriguing and sexy it was, Victorian-era movies usually put me to sleep. I was dead wrong.

Dorian Gray, set in the 1860s, is about a young man who've come back to London after his grandfather died. The movie shows bits and pieces of Dorian being caned by his grandfather during his childhood but as to how this is related other than his psychological well-being, I have no idea of its back story. When he arrived, he inherited a mansion and was taken into the wing of Lord Henry Wotton, played by Colin Firth, who was the biggest influence on how Dorian lived his life the next years. In his words, "There's no shame in pleasure. Man just wants to be happy. But society wants him to be good. And when he's good, he's rarely happy. But when he's happy, he's always good." When Basil Hallward, Henry's friend meets Dorian, he was awestruck with his beauty, got inspired and thus painted the picture that changed it all.

Dorian sees it, and he seemed very pleased with it --- surprised he could look so good, wished he could do so forever, in all of his youthfulness. For the price of your soul, Henry asks, would you? He answers yes, and his soul was traded.

As Dorian discovers the pleasures of being extremely good looking {bedding everyone from the Victorian high society, the effects of opium and even men getting drawn to him}, he realizes that as he indulges more and more into hedonism, so does his painting sink into rotting decay. Pleasure is not the same thing as happiness, is what he utters when musing about his experiences. He remains his perfect-skinned, magnificent self, his painting that he locked up in his attic, takes all the blows. He travels the world and indulge even more, comes back to a society that aged 25 years and yet he looks the same. What was once a naive boy-next-door is now a corrupted, malicious hedonist. Then he falls in love, now what?

The Good:

 He looks like a young Bradley Cooper here, this Ben.
  • Ben Barnes. While I do have Stuart Townsend as the original Dorian Gray in my mind, I can't help but having Ben Barnes now as the Dorian Gray. He was incredibly good looking, naive at first, cunning the next minute, his youth is worth preserving anytime. He doesn't look so hot shirtless {he does look a little scrawny but what the heck}and his acting can take a little more honing and he could display a little more intelligence but I'd take him any chance :P I never intended to watch The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn and now I think I'll be the first to line up at the cinemas.
  • Colin Firth. For a minute, I kept associating him with Tom Hanks here, especially when he was aged 25 years after. His acting was superb, he devilishly corrupted the innocence Dorian into a life of hedonism and to take after his pleasures, that I was reminded, too, of Al Pacino in The Devil's Advocate.
The Charming:
  • For the first time in my life, I'd been ogling men's clothes. On a Victorian-era Ben Barnes.
How can a vest be this intricate?
I was scrunching up my eyes on the ties around the high collar.
Too beautiful!

I want to wear coats like these. If only it wasn't too hot!

*swoons on Ben and the white on white bow*
  • While there was so much sexuality acted out on the film, it was refreshing how the {naked} women were consciously anti-Hollywood: frizzy hair, big, fat tummies and the whole Victorian shebang. Plus, for a movie that capitalizes on debauchery {opium, sex, drugs, homo-eroticism}, it was pretty tame. I don't know with other cultures but this is just enough skin, nudity and debauchery I can take. Any more than that may be creepy already.
  • Rebecca Hall as Emily Wotton. Truthfully, there was no such character in the novel by Oscar Wilde and I'm still in the search of the real ending as opposed to this version where Gray falls in love and wants to change because of Emily. However, the character was charming, in her first parts, she was unbelievably witty and gripping but suddenly becomes a Hollywood typecast towards the end. Nevertheless, Hall as Wotton was charming.

The Scary:
  • I had to cover my eyes several times whilst watching this movie. First of all, the movie opens with Gray stabbing someone with the blood splashing all over him and his clothes, like a scene out of a Tarantino movie. There was much gore as Gray kills Hallward when he discovers what had happened to his painting, throws him into the river chopped. Oh and need I mention that when Hallward won't stop asking about the damn painting, Gray kissed him and of course there was the whole homoeroticism and I just had to shut my eyes. Plus, I was watching this at 2 AM so it was eerily quiet and all I could hear was the damn painting's moaning.
  • The Painting kept emitting this weird zombie-like noise which was both cheesy and scary at the same time. In the end, it revealed an old skull-like figure of Dorian Gray and it pushed me to leave my lights open while sleeping.
  • Sibyl Vane, the theater actress whom Gray stalked in her dressing room, seduced into a sexual relation but did not marry, committed suicide and the images of her floating upwards in the river was simply creepy for me.

Overall Notes:
  • If you're a Literature Nazi {aka movie-watchers who cannot deviate away from the book version and can't enjoy a movie for what it is, nothing wrong with that, though}, don't watch this because it does deviate so much from the book, as I've read from a thousand reviews. If like me, you have not seen it but is curious of Dorian Gray's story, this is a good watch.
  • Ben Barnes is enough reason to watch this. The entire film is like a dark chocolate mousse waiting to be devoured: dark, sensual and no trace of sweetness at all.
  • Vanity, in explicit doses, is a sin. For a semi-beauty blogger, I couldn't help but ask: How far would I go to preserve beauty? Well, definitely not as far as selling my soul for it, that's for sure.
  • The world has changed because you are made of ivory and gold. The curve of your lips rewrite history. I'm in love with characters who can take the world by storm. Together with Don Juan de Marco, Helen of Troy, Dorian Gray takes a spot in the fictional world of extreme adulation.
  • I just noticed now, but it seems like I liked the movie, having written such a long post! Okay, so maybe I do recommend watching it. :P If you need a backgrounder on what kind of movie-watcher I am, here goes: When I watched Inception, I liked it because I took it at face value, followed what it shows and I did not go on "Was it a dream, or was it real life?" tirade afterwards. I liked the fact that one can follow its plot easily if one watches with focus and none of that crappy, overthinking analysis bullshit.
  • Pleasure is not the same as happiness. Such a loaded statement but it's a tough lesson to learn. 
  • Ben Barnes. Oh but have I said that already? Can I just say that he owes me one Sunday? I spent my entire Sunday ogling him on the internet thus, I have not been very productive at all!

Still in search of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray,

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