Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend dive into queer and queer-adjacent titles of the past that deserve a watch or a re-watch.
The Overlooked: Wilde
Stephen Fry doesn’t get enough credit. While many of our readers will know him for his essays, activism and wit, the man is also a fine actor, capable of giving an unforgettable performance.
Case in point: Wilde, the 1997 biopic of gay writer Oscar Wilde, in which Fry plays the title role. The movie recalls Wilde’s career as a lecturer and playwright as well as his Cinderella story of growing up middle class only to become the toast of the London elite for his success. After fathering two children with his wife Constance (Jennifer Ehle), Wilde meets Robbie Ross (Michael Sheen) and the two have a brief but passionate affair. Wilde enjoys his newfound homosexuality and success as a married man until he meets Lord Alfred Douglas (Jude Law), a handsome gay aristocrat. The two fall madly in love and begin a tempestuous affair, which eventually leads to Wilde’s famous trial for sexual perversion.
As a film, Wilde has a lot going for it, including sumptuous production design and a cast of soon-to-be stars (Tom Wilkinson, Orlando Bloom and Ioan Gruffudd all have brief roles). The real anchor of it all, however, is Fry who captures Wilde’s own trademark humor and bears a striking resemblance to the real man. He captures so well the man’s passionate affection for Alfred Douglas, as well as Wilde’s increasing worry that Douglas’ cavalier attitude and spoiled habits will eventually lead them both to downfall. Told with love, rage and featuring a magnificent performance from one of the world’s underrated character actors, we say give Wilde a watch. It’s as much a lesson in queer history as a master class of acting by Stephen Fry.
Streams on Amazon.
This is a great movie, but I want to add that Jude Law is terrific in it also and the chemistry between Fry and Law seems to capture perfectly what their relationship must have been like. Wilde really lost everything as a result of his infatuation with (love of) Alfred Douglas – who because of his conduct later in life…well anyway…Jude Law always plays the brat well. Fry may be underrated because he’s naturally such an extraordinary personality; so he always seems just to be playing himself. I’ve seen the movie several times, and I always enjoy it.
As someone who usually criticizes Queerty, I have to say I love these Screen Gems articles and feel that the movies they pick are spot-on. This movie however, I’m not as familiar with as the others. I saw it once when it first came out, but I really need to revisit it. I’m appreciative of their (and your) reviews for the reminder!
Best thing Stephen Fry has ever done. he was superb.
He was pretty wonderful in “Jeeves and Wooster.”
I remember Ioann Grufyyd in an interview telling how his first job was in Wilde and on his first day he had to get naked and into bed with Stephen Fry, I just kept thinking lucky old Stephen!
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