The Libertine tells the story of the Earl Of Rochester, hedonist and all round cad who scandalised the court of King Charles II.
Expecting a saucy period romp bolstered by Johnny Depp’s irresistibly wicked charm, what I actually got was a bunch of obnoxious dandies sneering at the world in self-consciously dense cod Olde Worlde speak. I’ve always been suspicious of scripts that involve writers writing about writing as it invariably spirals down into self-absorbed pretentiousness; and it seems watching actors act about acting has pretty much the same results. The only attempt to wrest the painfully self-indulgent script from the stage is to wave the camera around in the pseudo documentary style I hate so much and constantly use the kind of sepia-tinted retro filter that the directors of over-expensive bank adverts are so fond of. The performances are professional but stodgy and passionless and it contains the kind of constant stream of expletives and nudity that made me think that the cast might as well as just wandered up and down a stage holding placards with “ART” written on them. John Malkovich is solid despite the ludicrous prosthetic nose he is forced to wear and Rosamund Pike manages to inject at least a small modicum of humanity into her underwritten part but the script has intelligence but no insight, wit but never amuses and romance but never engages.
In the end it’s a charmless vanity project that will only ever attract an audience because of the presence of Mr. Depp. To anyone in search of witty period drama, I’d suggest trying Dangerous Liaisons or Quills instead.