"The Libertine is an adaptation of Stephen Jeffreys' stage play about a 17th century rogue named John Wilmot, the second Earl of Rochester, who spent roughly half his time scandalizing London with profane poems and plays, and the other half in pursuit of licentious ribaldry, to the point of alienating his wife and risking the ire of Charles II.
Depp plays Wilmot, of course, with John Malkovich -- who also served as a producer on the picture -- donning a slightly ridiculous fake nose as Charles. Other roles are filled by a gallery of promising British talent: "Minority Report's" Samantha Morton, "Miss Henderson Presents' " Kelly Reilly, "Pride & Prejudice's" Rosamund Pike and Tom Hollander, and Jack Davenport and Richard Coyle from the BBC sitcom "Coupling."
Everyone is trying really hard, and yet there's nothing for anyone to do: Director Laurence Dunmore doesn't seem to know how to structure the story, and Depp never manages to give us a sense of who Wilmot is -- for all his speechifying about the emptiness of cynicism and the inability to feel experience pleasure, he never seems to get around to telling us what it is he actually wants or enjoys. Eventually, someone gets syphilis and the movie tries to shift into a conventional tragedy. It doesn't work.
You can't blame Depp for taking the project; it must have been great fun to hang out with Malkovich and the rest of the cast, and wear ridiculous makeup and spout long obscene arias. That doesn't mean it's any fun to watch.
Genius Products' enhanced-widescreen DVD offers the expected assortment of extras: Director Dunmore offers his thoughts in an audio commentary, and also contributes his observations to eight deleted scenes, including an alternate ending. It's a bit of a shame Depp wasn't available to share the track with him, since so much of the movie is keyed to his specific screen presence.
Fortunately, Depp is all over "Capturing The Libertine", a 35-minute documentary directed by The Brownlee Brothers that approaches the film's production with a playfulness and style sorely lacking in the movie itself. It makes the disc worth renting ... though it doesn't necessarily do the same for the movie.
STUDIO: Genius Products, Inc.
RELEASE DATE: July 4, 2006
TIME: 114 minutes
DVD EXTRAS: Spanish audio dub; English and Spanish subtitles; audio commentary; deleted scenes; production featurette.
INTERNET SITE: www.thelibertine-movie.com