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Film / Dorian Gray

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Dorian Gray is a 2009 film adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray. It is directed by Oliver Parker and stars Ben Barnes as Dorian Gray and Colin Firth as Lord Henry Wotton.

This work contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Karma: In the novel, Lord Henry never got a comeuppance for his role in Dorian's moral downfall. In this film, Dorian destroys Lord Henry's relationship with the one woman he genuinely loves — his daughter — and Lord Henry ends up with a disfiguring scar after his attempt to end Dorian's trail of destruction.
  • Adaptational Sexuality:
    • Dorian is unambiguously and actively bisexual in the film, which was hinted at but not firmly established in the original novel.
    • Basil is also explicitly gay, while in the book's censored version it was only heavily implied.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: In the original novel, Dorian was blond. In the film, he has black hair.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: Lord Henry and Dorian, who were both unrepentant to the end in the novel, each reach a point at different times in the movie where they acknowledge the damage they've caused and attempt to offset it. In Dorian's case, his final fate changes from an inadvertent act of self-destruction to a case of him deliberately sacrificing himself to prevent further harm.
  • A God Am I: Dorian's reply when Basil pleas with him to destroy the portrait to stop his decline into the devilish creature the portrait has begun to show.
  • Artifact of Doom: The painting.
  • Art Imitates Art: The depiction of Sybil Vane's death is reminiscent of the painting Ophelia, with redhaired Sybil floating in the water with her arms outstretched. She's a similar character in many ways, being a sweet, innocent young woman who drowns herself after being abandoned by her lover and whose brother subsequently seeks revenge. Appropriately, Sybil had also portrayed Ophelia in a production of Hamlet earlier in the film.
  • Canon Foreigner: Lord Henry's daughter Emily, who has a significant influence on both her father and Dorian in the later part of the film, is not in the novel.
  • The Corrupter: Lord Henry.
  • Create Your Own Villain: Lord Henry attempted to mold Dorian into his own image. This comes to haunt him later, after he becomes a reformed family man— his own daughter falls for Dorian, leading Henry to decide to protect her by ending Dorian. He succeeds, but the film ends with his daughter no longer wanting anything to do with him.
  • Creepy Changing Painting: Dorian's picture ages for him, and when he commits his terrible acts, the picture reflects his cruelty.
  • Death Equals Redemption: At the end of the film, after the attic has been set on fire in an attempt to destroy the painting, Dorian chooses not to attempt escape, remaining in the conflagration to ensure the painting's destruction.
  • Defiled Forever: Celia Radley takes a deep fall, ending her downwards spiral into debauchery as a prostitute disowned by her family. Dorian has the gall to say that it's not his fault.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Dorian.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Dorian. There is literally no one who can't be persuaded to screw him, regardless of gender. Or age. Or flight instinct. (You halfway expect James Vane to abandon his quest for revenge and give it a go.)
  • Evil Makes You Ugly: Evil would make Dorian ugly if not for the picture taking the ugliness upon itself.
  • Fanservice: The Dorian/Basil kiss. The film also has Dorian shirtless frequently, sometimes making sense as he has just got out of bed, others without reason.
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot: After Dorian has seduced Celia Radley (and then her mother, Lady Radley, while Celia was hiding under the bed), he arranges for the former and another woman to make out with each other for his pleasure.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Dorian's lash marks and picture distortion.
  • Hotter and Sexier: The film depicts all the sex and depravity that the novel could only hint at.
  • How We Got Here: The film opens with Dorian killing Basil and dumping his body in the water, then jumps back a year to his arrival, catching up to the opening scene about a third of the way through.
  • I'd Tell You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You: Dorian quips this in response to being asked his secret of looking young.
  • Immortality Promiscuity: Dorian.
  • Kill It with Fire: Lord Henry attempts to destroy the painting by setting it on fire. Dorian is killed in the inferno; the painting is found in the remains of the building, intact and restored to its original appearance.
  • Living Drawing: Toward the end of the film, the painting of Dorian visibly moves while people are looking at it, and at the climax tries to climb out of its frame into the real world.
  • Looks Worth Killing For: Dorian Gray is a beautiful young man who is frightened at the prospect of losing his good looks. He sacrifices his soul for eternal youth, but his portrait ages in his stead and reflects all his corruption back at him.
  • The Mirror Shows Your True Self: In one scene, Dorian sees the grotesque face of the painting reflected back at him from a silver tray.
  • Morality Pet: Emily Wotton appears to serve as one for both Dorian and Dorian's former mentor, Lord Henry Wotton. Her birth is the catalyst for Lord Henry's reformation, and as an adult she inspires Dorian with a desire to redeem his past acts.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Lord Henry says "God forgive me" after he sees the portrait and the decayed body of Dorian and figures out what happened.
  • Opium Den: Lord Henry takes Dorian to one.
  • Pretty Boy: Dorian.
  • Promoted to Love Interest: Basil and Dorian explicitly have a relationship. The novel hinted that Basil had feelings for Dorian but couldn't go any further than that.
  • Relative Error: When Dorian introduces himself to Sybil Vane for the first time, he says that he saw her previously in a gin tavern but was unable to talk to her because she'd left with another man. He's noticeably uncomfortable, assuming the man was her lover, until she says that the man she left with was "Jim... my brother."
  • Scare Chord: The first time we see the portrait in all its ugliness, it's not really that bad... Until the thing gasps horrifically and some petrifying music makes you fall back from your chair.
  • Setting Update: The novel doesn't have a specific date, but presumably ends in the early 1890s, around the time it was first published. The film begins in the early 1890s and follows the unaging Dorian through the successive decades to end around 1920.
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: Dorian gives one to Basil.
  • Slowly Slipping Into Evil: Dorian.
  • Spooky Painting: The decayed Dorian is mighty unpleasant to look at— especially once it gets to the point of acquiring painted maggots that move around.
  • Surprise Vehicle: The vengeful James Vane chases Dorian into the tunnels of the London Underground, where he has Dorian at his mercy when he's suddenly run down by a train that appears without warning from just out of shot. In real life, its approach would have been obvious from quite a distance. In James' case his In-Universe lack of notice could be justified by his vision explicitly and possibly also his hearing being impaired, but what about the camera's POV?
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Dorian.
  • Time Skip: Around two thirds of the way through the movie, there's a skip of around 20 years, during which everyone except Dorian gets older, including Emily, who was born just before the skip, growing into a young woman.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Lord Henry after the Time Skip.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Lord Henry.