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Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog


-- On Screenwriting and Related Topics

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

I moved from NYC to LA in October, 2003. And though I still think NYC is the greatest city in the world, I'm truly loving life here in the City of Angels. I'm a writer, reader, and occasional picture-taker.

Monday, September 14, 2009

FFFJ: Dorian Gray

The impetus for me posting to the blog today was this review I read in The Hollywood Reporter, about the new film Dorian Gray that screened at Toronto International Film Festival. I remembered that I had read the screenplay for it a little over a year ago (in June of 2008). So I thought it would be a great opportunity to post another in my continuing series FFFJ: From the Files of Fun Joel.

Many of you know the story that the film is based on, but in case you don't, here's my Logline for the screenplay:

"Young heir, turned on to hedonism, maintains his youthful appearance while a portrait ages and shows his soul's true blackness."

Ultimately, I gave this screenplay a WEAK CONSIDER and the writer a CONSIDER. My main reason for this was that the script was well-written, but the style seemed very odd for today's audiences. And I think that Brunette's review in THR picks up on similar things. He writes:

Whether or not the re-interpretation is always successful is another question entirely, but superb production values and imaginative, vigorous camerawork, music, and editing should carry the film a long way. It's not exactly clear who the audience is for this occasionally subtle literary adaptation that also aspires, almost against its will, to be a horror movie, but it deserves to find an audience somewhere.

So, on to my critique then. Here are the comments I wrote on Toby Finlay's screenplay:

Dorian Gray is a well-written gothic horror script based on the famous Oscar Wilde novel. Yet while it is as good an adaptation as could be, the fact remains that the story feels dated and may not appeal to modern audiences. Coupling this with the budget such a period film will likely require, the film becomes a much less promising commercial endeavor. Bottom line, if this type of film is on XXXX’s agenda, this could be an excellent choice for production. But on its own merits, the film would likely not be the strongest candidate for development.

While there is much to like in this story, the style remains firmly rooted in another time. Gothic horror of this nature is far removed from the style of horror that plays well today. And though the story is certainly not without its charms, it remains a dated style. Because of this, Dorian Gray may have a difficult time finding a sizable audience. Finlay, it should be noted, has done a good job of at least attempting to update the story. The addition of Emily, the excising of some of the more dated sequences (e.g. the hunting party), the extension of the book’s time span, and the greater grounding in the birth of modernism are all adjustments that help widen the film’s appeal. But it still seems unlikely to be enough, as the story’s core maintains the same feel.

At the same time, should XXXX be in the market for a film of this nature, despite its built-in problems, this script would be as good as any of its type. It is a solid effort with good pacing and excellent structure. Characters are strong, as is dialogue. And Finlay is also worthy of further consideration as well. But most probably, the film is unlikely to succeed commercially.

With a relatively large budget and a dated feel that will alienate many audiences, this film will be fighting an uphill battle to find commercial viability.

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Blogger Tom Murphy said...

Hi Joel - nice to see you back

I saw a preview of the film last week at the BFI (British Film Institute) in London. There was a Q&A with director Oliver Parker afterwards (Toby Finlay was due to attend but had to cancel): I blogged a few notes here.

2:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Joel,
As always, an entertaining and thoughful read. Always, your blog impresses.

The ending of this movie is very "B" movie-like.

Might make a great graphic novel. Do you agree?

11:59 PM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Hey Anon! Thanks for the compliments. Glad you enjoy it.

Hadn't really thought about it as a graphic novel, but I guess I could potentially see that. Although I think it might lack enough uniqueness from the original novel to warrant the full-on graphic novel treatment.

8:33 PM  
Anonymous Dave said...

Great little article. I still haven't gotten round to watching the movie, it's still sitting on my shelf. I must watch it soon.

10:02 PM  
Anonymous Mihailo Sundic said...

Maybe outdated, but i like what they done of Dorian Gray, fun, different, nice photography, definitely worth the budget.

10:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Joel,

I'm a Belgian student and I'm making a comparative analysis of Oliver Parker's movie adaptation and Oscar Wilde's work. I read that you had the screenplay of the movie, is that right? Because I've been searching for it for a very long time, but I can't find it on the web. Where did you find the screenplay?


1:43 PM  
Blogger belinda said...

I am a new author,Will you please read my book," My LITTLE SECRETS" author Belinda Davis,My book is about the south and it make me think of the movie COLOR PURPLE,and I know it will make a great movie Belinda!

8:57 AM  
Blogger Ed Love said...

It's always interesting to see how the old classics get updated for today's audience.

I'm a big fan of Oscar, and recently adapted this work to the Simpsons Treehouse of Horror. To quote Troy McClure: it's the part Mr Burns was born to play!

If you're a Sipsons fan & could do with 8 minutes of laughter, drop me a line & I can email it to you.

“From someone who has spent years trying to write something ‘Simpsonesque’, I can vouch that Ed Love’s script is right on the money. Very funny, very clever, and great adapted source material. Bravo, Mr Ed!”

Rick Miller of MacHomer, his award winning one man Simpsons/MacBeth show.

5:39 AM  
Blogger Linda J. Prieto said...

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8:34 AM  

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