Highly recommended for raunchiness, innovative characters, plot, attention to visual detail that conveys the period as dark, lavishly dressed, wigged and ill-washed. The biograhpy of this poetic raunchy athiest provides the plot with twists, turns and endings more fabulous than stories concocted to please a mass audience. The scope and detail of the script is worthy of its topic. The language is used to good effect. Every sentence is worthy of inclusion in the film, no redundancy. I laughed, I cried, I winced, I disliked characters, I wanted to befriend characters, I admired characters, I was reviled by characters. This film was a fulfilling experience for me. The production credits the audience with intelligence
The film opens with a young adult John Wilmott (Jonny Depp), Second Earl of Rochester, making a self descriptive prologue directly to us, the viewers, in a classical stage play style. He sneers as he knowing describes himself, his knowledge of how we will experience him. Willmot is wonderfully objectionable, spiteful even, with the engaging cleverness worthy of a witty poet and playwrite. He is spikely cynical throughout:
“the moral of the incident is that any experiment of interest in life will be carried out at your own expense, mark it well“
“all men would be cowards if the only had the courage“
The film is birightly bawdy. It sprays a wealthy variety of recognisable, yet obscure words, that mechanistically describe sexual acts. The context and delivery of obscure phrase’s makes meaning clear, for example a phrase delivered by a prostitute/actress describing copulation with a wife:
“shooting good chisum up the lawful“
Sad cynicism pervades the film, life is conveyed as tough and yet the lyrical words thrown in pain are beautiful, bring poignancy to the struggles of the players. Sepia tones, mud, smoke, puss, music played on period instruments, dark lighting rich language and costumes sink us deeply in the period. The tone and pace of the dialogue moves like a symphony.
Examples of bawdy cycnicism expressed by the female characters:
“I believe that men are hurdles that must be negotiated… …you could buy my slit for a pound a night sir…” (Elizabeth Barry played by Samantha Morton)
“when a gent sees the spirit and not the eyes and the tits, then the gent is in trouble… …don’t make me care for you, I’d rather you came your fetch over my face than leave me with that lump of caring” (Prostitute/Actress)
The temporary relief from cynicism and life is through plays, acting, Drama. Dreams. The relationship between John Wilmott and his prodigy actress, Elizabeth Barry, hints at a deeper more profound, mutually beneficial relationship. The relationship between John and King Charles II (John Malkovich) is similarly more profound. No single quote captures the subtlety and power of these threads of hope and optimism, each peaking at a different point in the film, beautifully balanced. John Malkovich’s is exceedingly well cast, delivering few and powerful lines with quiet gravitas.
The film ends with an epilogue that invites the audience to take a slightly new slant on all that they’ve seen. It asks a question, I wonder what your answer will be. My answer was ‘no more or no less’