The Libertine (2004)

Rating: D+

Dir: Laurence Dunmore
Star: Johnny Depp, Samantha Morton, John Malkovich, Rosamund Pike

Got to admire any film where the main character opens by declaring, straight to camera, “You will not like me now and you will like me a good deal less as we go on.” If only the film had had the courage of its convictions: it starts well enough, with the Earl of Rochester (Depp) returning to London after being exiled by the King (Malkovich), following an “incident”, shall we say, Rochester continues mowing his way through the female population, but his attention is drawn to actress Elizabeth Barry (Morton); initially, as an interesting work in progress, but eventually he falls for her, and becomes increasingly infatuated with her, the more she spurns his advances.

Which is where things fall apart. The potentially intriguing premise of an insight into the mind of a figure who has absolutely no desire to be “nice” or “liked”, evaporates in favor of something which is much less interesting. Inevitably, Rochester falls from grace and falls apart – literally, since syphilis eats away his nose and forces him to wear a silver replacement. A likely inevitable deathbed conversion follows, and we’re left with someone who (despite the whole, icky nose thing) is far more adorable and much less interesting.

The performances aren’t bad; we were amused by two of the cast of Coupling, and it appears Depp is unable to appear in a period piece without his accent turning into Captain Jack Sparrow – see also the upcoming Sweeney Todd. It’s also odd to hear Malkovich trying to suppress his Brooklyn accent; he didn’t bother in Dangerous Liasons, so why here? Distinctly unsatisfying.