"Do you like
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
Kill A King
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