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The Libertine (Unrated)

Release Date: November 23rd, 2005 (NYC-Angelika Film Center)
January 13th, 2006 (Wide) by The Weinstein Company.
The Cast: Johnny Depp, Samantha Morton, John Malkovich, Paul Ritter, Stanley Townsend, Francesca Annis, Rosamund Pike, Johnny Vegas, Richard Coyle, Hugh Sachs, Tom Burke, Rupert Friend.
Directed by Laurence Dunmore.

BASIC PREMISE: During the 17th century, John Wilmot (Depp), the Earl of Rochester, drinks, womanizes, and becomes ill while writing a play for King Charles II (Malkovich). Based on a true story.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE:. Unfortunately, everything else falls flat. The first fifteen-minutes show lots of promise, but after that point, the plot goes downhill along with the rest of the film. The opening scene is narrated by the Earl of Rochester himself as he stands along in the candlelight to preface the story of his life. He does warn you that you may not actually like him, which is true because, as the plot progresses, he becomes more irritating. The plot really needs is a dose of energy and a much tighter, coherent script. Quite often, it feels redundant and simply goes nowhere even slightly interesting. When King Charles II comes onscreen, you canít help but to stare at his long noseóat least that holds your attention! As complex as the Earlís personality is, the script doesnít really help to bring out his personality. His romance with Elizabeth Barry (Morton), a beautiful actress, has very little chemistry. The cinematography seems awkward with too many dimly-lit locationsówas there such a thing as sunlight back then? The costume design is just as mundane. As the Earl of Rochester becomes more ill, itís more difficult and uncomfortable to even look at his hideous face, especially knowing that heís still alcoholic. On a positive note, if you havenít already fallen asleep by then, thereís a somewhat funny and offbeat scene when the Earl stages a play with actors dressed up as dildos. If only the rest of The Libertine were as lively and engaging. Johhny Depp gives a descent performance, but thereís not enough material for him to really dig into.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: Even as the Earlís physical and mental state spirals downward, youíre more disgusted than moved into tears. Clearly, heís a rebel who seeks freedom, but he lacks enough style and, above all, self-respect to be a successful rebel.

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: A weak script, poor direction, and bad lighting.


THE BOTTOM LINE: Itís hard to believe that, in a period piece with Johnny Depp, the only thing remotely surprising or engaging is John Malkovichís Pinocchio-like nose. The Earl of Rochester deserves a much better film than this incoherent mess.


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