Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Mama At the Movies: The Libertine

Mama At The Movies: One Non-Family Movie at A Time
“Enough of this Disney crap and singing chipmunks…I need some real movies!!!!”

The Libertine

I can’t remember the last time I actually saw a movie at the theatre. I think it may have been The Last Samurai with Tom Cruise before he turned Christian Scientist wingnut. I thought that was an excellent movie despite him being in it.

So, last night I saw the movie The Libertine (after The Girl's bedtime, obviously) with the fabulous Johnny Depp. I picked it up on a whim only knowing that it was about John Wilmot, the 2nd Earl of Rochester and Samantha Morton (of Jane Eyre) was in it.

It was released in 2004, and I never heard a peep about it. I can understand why: the movie is dark, gritty, the Earl of Rochester is downright ugly and grotesque in every manner imaginable (‘You will not like me’), there is content in the movie that absolutely would not appeal to the mainstreamer: there are no gaudy, drawn out battle scenes; no predictable, formulaic plot and dialogue, no clear cut hero/heroine.

I have longed to see Johnny Depp in a role such as this.

A lot of people thought this movie ‘boring’, ‘slow’, ‘one of Depp’s worst performances, if not the worst’.

Here’s what Seattlep.i.’s Arts and Entertainment had to say about it:

“Depp has a flash or two of charisma, but this may be his all-time worst performance. He can't convey anything going on in the character's mind beyond cynicism, his meditations on life and art all ring false, and there's just nothing to like about the guy.
Visually, the film is unpleasantly murky and claustrophobic, and its historical texture is thin. Like too many stage adaptations, the script is unnecessarily talky, and the first-time direction of Laurence Dunmore is flat and weak.
Despite its title, the movie could hardly be less erotic. Indeed, promiscuity has never looked more totally unappealing, and its final scenes of Wilmot's advanced venereal disease are enough to make you take a vow of celibacy. A great date movie, this is not.”

Wilmot was cynical, that is what the entire character is built upon. In the beginning of the movie, Wilmot does in fact say: ‘You will not like me.’ This is not a likable character by far, as it was intended. I believe it was further intended to be grainy and murky as well as claustrophobic-it’s called building mood. Also, this period in history was muddy and dark-they were dealing with The Plague epidemic for a year or so, decidedly on a much smaller scale than in the 14th Century; King Charles II was on the throne, the Restoration movement was happening, of course religion was an issue.
As for ‘meditations of life and art all ring false’, I beg to differ. The fact that this writer would even consider saying this is not ‘a great date movie’ further proves the lack of judgment for seeing what this movie really is.

The scenes in which Wilmot was dying of ‘the pox’ were undeniably hideous, yet so well played out-you could not help but look. Depp was so absolutely feral in the role. Normally, when I watch a movie, I get distracted by what is going on behind the scenes. For instance, What was that actor thinking when kissing Hugh Grant? Grin and bear it, or what? Or, if there is a scene where it is raining, I think: they’re using a hose for that aren’t they? Another one that comes up, usually during a period movie battle scene, when there are hordes of men running full-speed to the other end of the field: What are they thinking as they are running and screaming?

I did not do this with The Libertine, but once, when I squealed out: Samantha Morton must be thinking: “I just kissed Johnny Depp, the sexiest man alive!!!” Other than that, I fell completely into the movie. A rarity considering I could ruin a perfectly good movie for someone else (or myself) with my backstage comments.

Call me weird, even snobbish, but I thought this was one of Depp’s better performances. This movie is definitely not for the faint of heart, and not for the mainstreamers. If you could not decipher the dialogue, or thought it ‘too talky’ and boring, then let me suggest the latest Rob Schneider movie, or perhaps Snakes On A Plane.

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