Johnny Depp, Samantha Morton, John Malkovich, Richard Coyle, Hugh Sachs, Jack Davenport, Rosamund Pike, Francesca Annis and Johnny Vegas

Laurence Dunmore

Running Time:
114 mins

Out to buy on DVD 08/05/06

"Do you like me now?"

1675, the return of King Charles II (Malkovich) to the throne after years of unrest led to a time of decadence and excess. Exploiting this fact to its fullest was the Earl of Rochester, John Wilmot (Depp). Living life to the full, he loved women and drank copious amounts of anything alcoholic but this was all to the determent of his work and his family. As he continually became an annoyance to the King and an embarrassment to his wife (Pike), he was a society darling especially after his latest wager produced one of London's finest actresses, Elizabeth Barry (Morton).

Opening with a prologue that sees the lead character announce that 'you will not like me' doesn't fill the viewer with enthusiasm but the life of the Earl Of Rochester was anything but dull.

Based on the acclaimed play by Stephen Jeffreys, 'The Libertine' is a tour-de-force for the chameleon talents of Johnny Depp. Every time he graces the silver screen, Depp literally become the character he is portraying. You forget that this is the quietly spoken, shy man that you see during interviews or press junkets and totally embrace the character he is playing. He is the Earl Of Rochester, transforming himself completely into the character and revelling in his decadent surroundings.

Debonair, bringing with confidence but a slave to his vices, the Earl Of Rochester was the equivalent of what a Hollywood celebrity is today and he lived to the 17th Century version of excess that some of our outrageous stars live today. With drink and women the most important things in his life, this should be a tale of excessive debauchery but unfortunately the film doesn't go far enough. The prologue promises you that you will not like the lead character but he doesn't do anything that deplorable to make you dislike him. He doesn't even go to the excesses that you might have been expecting. For a womaniser he doesn't seem to be with many women throughout the film, as the story is about him finding his true love, Elizabeth Barry. He does drink and swear an awful lot but this is neither shocking nor nasty enough for you not to like him.

These shortcomings are slightly balanced out by the strength of Depp's supporting cast. Samantha Morton gives another solid performance as Elizabeth Barry. The chemistry between her and Depp drives the second act, as they bounce the dialogue off each other. John Malkovich transforms himself to play King Charles II. Putting on weight and a large amount of makeup, Malkovich is almost as chameleon like as Depp as he totally amerces himself in the character. Rosamund Pike continues spurn the Bond-Girl curse and grow into an actress that is worth watching. As Elizabeth Malet, the Earl's devoted wife who continues to love him, however he treats her.

'The Libertine' is a labour of love by Johnny Depp and director Laurence Dunmore. Visually stunning and superbly acted, the film is let down by not going as far or showing as much as it could have done. For a film that wants you not to like the lead character, the lack of anything really too shocking or deplorable makes you think that he wasn't really that bad.

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To Kill A King

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