The Libertine Reviews
Wasting a very good performance from J Depp, Samantha Morton and John Malkovich, the film treds unevenly over the cobblestones of its debauchery - too graphic - yet not shocking, as the "love" scenes often become too long, too artsy, and too pointless.
The hedonistic aspect of the film is intriguing, and somewhere within there is a message pondering acts for self versus the selfless act. - I believe that the script would have been better if it had adhered more towards these ponderings instead of concerning itself with minor charactors, historical detours and dramatic non-sequitors.
Samantha Morton's charactor comes across as beguiling, and yet we remain unsure of her motivations, as so much appears to get glossed over by a simple "he is my lover" - but what does that mean? What is the context and why the later appearance of nonchalance? Was there something implied in the king's request that she be a spy against Depp that would lead her to detach herself from him? So much could have been mined here.
The introduction and conclusion are a nice touch, and the speach before the house of lords a wonderful tour de force by Depp (and almost worth viewing the rest of the film for), but even when the film does it right, ie. said scene in the house of lords, it squanders the dramatic credit by almost throwing away the subsequent meeting between Depp and Malkovich, tossing aside the true theme of the film just as easily as Depp's depraved charactor throws away the respect of his king and the adoration of his followers.
The female performances are all fierce and fiery. Samantha Morton plays a passionate if talentless ingenue, who under Wilmot's tutelage, gives perhaps the best Ophelia I've seen to date (not that I've seen many), even though it's only snippets, and it might be anachronistic as well. Rosamund Pike is icy and sensuous in the carriage scene and icy and tormented in the big confrontation scene.
Some excellent zingers and profoundly romantic moments. "May I always be in your heart, sometimes in your thoughts, but never in your debt." Ooo chills!
There is a physical transformation that took place before the end which was well done. Overall I don't think I was as impressed as most, as this seems to be a popular film with others.
VERDICT: Can't say I'd really recommend this film, but watch it if it comes your way
[font=Century Gothic]"The Libertine" is an intelligent, witty dissertation on the decision between using one's gifts for the betterment of society or the pleasures of drinking and fornicating. The movie may argue otherwise but I have to go for the latter, if that is your choice.(And consider that William Burroughs and Hunter Thompson may not have become the writers they were without the copious amounts of drugs they consumed.) [/font]
[font=Century Gothic]This is not a pretty movie but then the 1600's by all accounts was not a very delightful time to be alive. That is why I admire Wilmot because he was honest in depicting his surroundings.[/font]
This opening credits are quiet, and subtle, until they are broken by Johnny Depp providing a prologue while drenched in a painting-like lighting, and right off the bat, you're expecting this film to be brilliant, all the way up until Johnny Depp talks about haunting your mind and self-pride during a certain post-film activity. Well, ladies and gentlemen, that's only the beginning, and sure enough, the film proceeds to deliver a relentless, virtually unstoppable barrage of disgustingly gratuitous filth, and that is much more of an understatement than anything. The barrage of gratuitous filth is not only exhausting, but inconsistent with this film's type of artistry and, above all else, its time, for although this kind of sick dialogue was as prominent then as it is now, it sure doesn't feel that way, not because of the screenplay, but because director Laurence Dunmore sets a tone that's too focused on the differences between then and now. That's just fine in any good formal period piece, but as you can easily figure out, this isn't all that formal, and because Dunmore's tone for the film is so time-focused, casualities feel all too much like anachronisms. Really, as much as I've complained about this film's obscene elements, it's not like the whole theme is completely inappropriate. In fact, this film's concept of audaciously exploring the highs and especially the lows of hedonism is a brilliant one, but the film is so relentlessly unsubtle and so unaware of its true intentions, that it just comes out as a messy piece of squandered potential. However, it's not like the film is bad, for although its flaws are consistent, what is just as consistent is its fine strengths that could have done wonders if this film was more consistent and tasteful, but still stands as this film's savior.
A consensus is a general agreement, and it would seem as though a general agreement about this film is that it's cinematography is a mess. True, it is a touch murky, as well as too artistic for themes this crude, but in spite of that, I'm calling bull on all of the critics that called this a failure visually, because this film looks stunning. Like "Barry Lyndon", the visual style is so vividly reminiscent to that of a painting of the time, only this time, there's more grit and bleakness in the tone, and although it fits the concept much more than the execution, it still thrusts you into the time. Heck, I'll go so far as to say that this cinematographer out-"Barry Lyndoned" "Barry Lyndon". Still, next to the style, as well as the lovely production designs, it's the performers that really carry this film, particularly our certain leading man. Man, Johnny Depp could be playing Vlad the Impaler, and you'd still like to hang out with him, because he always has such charisma and presence, and really knows how to manipulate that when he needs to. Here, like the cinematography, Depp contradicts the lack of subtlety in the director's execution by bringing subtlety and grace that may be diluted by the unsublte and disturbingly informal dialogue he's been given, but is never washed away, because Depp has such a natural leading man presence, and one strong enough to carry even the messiest of films like this, and turn it into something more around every corner, from its quiet beginning, to its admittedly great ending.
Overall, its inventive, brilliantly audacious concept finds itself squandered by relentless and gratuitously crude themes that render the film completely devoid of subtlety; and it certainly doesn't help that director Laurence Dunmore's overemphasis on the time leaves much should-be casual dialogue to feel misplaced; and yet, he still saves the film with his brilliantly artistic visual style that adds both grit and vividness that's too good for this film, much like Johnny Depp's typically fine lead performance that carries "The Libertine" to its position as a hit-or-miss, but still generally interesting portrait on the horrible consequences of hedonism.
2.5/5 - Fair