Film review: The Libertine (2004), directed by Laurence Dunmore
A film about the Earl of Rochester sounds like a great idea, no? I thought so, especially since he, through a book called Old St Paul’s, worked as some sort of inspiration for Charlotte Brontë, or so I read somewhere.
The Earl of Rochester (Johnny Depp) is a nobleman in the time of King Charles II (John Malkovich). He’s a womanising alcoholic drug-addict, pretty much, whose middle name is Debauchery.
At his manor in the country, he has a lady wife (Rosamund Pike), who doesn’t exactly get to see a lot of him. His friends in the city, on the other hand, do.
And then he falls for a struggling actress (Samantha Morton), and it’s all extremely arty.
Also starring Paul Ritter as Chiffinch, Stanley Townsend as Keown, Tom Hollander as Etherege, Johnny Vegas as Sackville, Richard Coyle as Alcock, Rupert Friend as Downs, Kelly Reilly as Jane and Jack Davenport as Harris.
Yeah, the main impression of this film was “arty”. The description on the digital programme guide said beware the smut and filth and everything, but there really wasn’t much to upset my sensibilities.
Most of the film is dark and looks grimy, and it both begins and ends with Depp in a dark room having a monologue into the camera about how he’s not a likeable character (he’s proven right), which adds to the whole artiness of it.
If you happen to like artsy films, you’ll probably love this. This is a period piece of art, with wigs and corsets and syphilis and things. If you’re not into artsy films, this is a slightly dull period drama (filmed with a handheld camera? I don’t remember) about a debauched man with little to no morals who sleeps with half of London, takes drugs and drinks a lot and then he dies, because consequences of his behaviour.
I mean … meh.
Johnny Depp is always a delight to see in a film, because he’s incredibly good at what he does. It’s funny if you consider he’s with Davenport and Hollander here as well, so it’s like a Pirates of the Caribbean reunion party, except of course it isn’t in any way, shape or form.
Nah, I just didn’t think this film was all that interesting, to be honest. The Earl was a selfish git who did whatever he fancied because he didn’t really care about anything but getting his rocks off, spreading misery in his wake.
In a way, it’s nice (ish) to see a darker side of history, but I just didn’t really care about what happened to the main character. In a way, it felt more like one of those “pass me the musket and I’ll put him out of our misery myself” times. But still, I guess it’s worth a watch if you’re a fan of any of the actors in it – there are lots of famous faces – but it’s an ugly film (the Earl toward the end, for instance, ewww) and it feels more like it should have been a painting than a (sort of) biopic. It probably makes a great stage play, actually, but as a film, it’s just too gloomy.
2.5 out of 5 acting lessons.