Libertine, The

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: -1/2

Content: -4

Johnny Depp, John Malkovich, Samantha Morton. Period comedy/drama. Written by Stephen Jefferies. Directed by Laurence Dunmore.

The story concerns a 17th century free spirit by the name of John Wilmot, the 2nd Earl of Rochester (Johnny Depp). The Earl is bent on breaking taboos, and so his rebellious and most scandalous lifestyle leads the wily rogue into several self-absorbed adventures.

Set against the backdrop of the Restoration a pivotal age of enlightenment in science, religion and the arts, as well as a growing new sensual freedom The Libertine follows the meteoric rise and fall of the Earl. As the story begins, he is drawing acclaim with his daring writing and raising eyebrows as a man with a lascivious lifestyle. A close confidante of the high-living King Charles II, the Earl delights in lampooning Englands royals with his subversive wit and scandalizing London society with his sexual escapades. But when the Earl becomes attracted to the independent Elizabeth Barry (Samantha Morton), the theatrical protg he plans to turn into Englands biggest star, their affair and a subsequent betrayal will be the start of the Earls plunge from the heights of social celebrity to the depths of ruin.

Stocked with fine performances and paced evenly by director Laurence Dunmore, these are professionals doing professional work. And I suppose there is some wicked side to each of us that enjoys living vicariously through screen characters who are successful at fulfilling their gluttonous natures, but soon the salacious allure turns sour for those attempting to develop their spiritual nature.

Though the lead is witty and sought after, his ravenous personality turns on him and on the viewer. Suddenly we realize we are spending two hours with not just a decadent, adulterous soul, but a foolish one unable to see beyond his worldly wisdom. Nothing really touches him, not even his quest for the fulfillment of his insatiable sexual appetite. Hes not a loving person, just one who needs to possess and dominate, a brilliant man who feels loftier than others. There seems to be little desire in him to seek redemption, even as he nears death from an overindulgent lifestyle, which leads to his contracting of syphilis. Along the way, we see a great deal of sexual activity, including an orgy, but like the emptiness of this characters soul, the sexuality depicted has all the stimulation of viewing dogs copulating.

We can learn by viewing the tragic lives of those ruled by narcissism, but the lesson has been taught on screen without excessive crudity or exploitive sexuality. Video alternative: A Face in the Crowd. Andy Griffith, yes, Andy of Mayberry, gave a layered dramatic performance as a homespun musician/storyteller who shot to fame only to become so self-involved that his tyrannical personality destroyed his career. It is a powerful parable of the destructive nature of man when unleashed by fame and fortune.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
The Weinstein Company

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Mostly the crude language is derived from suggestive or blatant sexuality.

Obscene Language: 7 f-words, 7 s-words, 3 b-words, and 4 others.

Profanity: I caught no misuse of Gods name, but the main character has a disdain for all things religious.

Violence: Brief, but a man is punched in one scene, while another is stabbed in a sword fight. Blood: Some blood is seen when a man is stabbed and lies dying.

Sex: The films sexuality goes beyond bawdy, becoming pornographic and desensitizing.

Nudity: On several occasions, mostly female topless.

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: the story is laced with sexual dialogue as graphic as the carnal situations.

Drugs: There is much drinking, reflecting the leads overindulgent lifestyle.

Other: The lead has a disdain for God and for life itself.

Running Time: 130 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults

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