The Happy Prince, an ambitious passion project written, directed by and starring Rupert Everett, is so specific with its portrait of a rapidly declining Oscar Wilde in his final days that the film is a must-see for those wild about Wilde. But for anyone outside of that circle, it's a bit of a slog.
We are reminded that Wilde was perhaps the planet's most famous literary figure in 1895, having penned no less than The Picture of Dorian Gray, Salome, An Ideal Husband, The Importance of Being Earnest and, of course, The Happy Prince, but Everett's film focuses instead on how Wilde was imprisoned for two years with hard labor for "gross indecency," and was crucified by a society that once idolized him.
In The Happy Prince, we see Wilde on his deathbed in a cheap Parisian hotel room, looking back on a life of many highs and even more lows. It is a very particular tale of the dark side of genius. Everett (My Best Friend's Wedding) reminds us, with painstaking effort, what a world-class artist he is, but sadness reigns in The Happy Prince. An even sadder footnote: Wilde was not pardoned by the British Government for acts "no longer considered offenses" until 2017.