Stephen Frears's PRICK UP YOUR EARS chronicles the rise and tragic demise of Joe Orton, the gay playwright whose brief but dazzling career spawned the brilliant farces Loot, Entertaining Mr. Sloan and What the Butler Saw and made a lasting contribution to the English-language theater.
Born John Orton in Leicester, England, Orton died at age 34 in 1967 when his longtime lover, Kenneth Halliwell, crushed his skull with a hammer before downing two handfuls of Nembutal to take his own life. PRICK UP YOUR EARS opens with this grisly event, then unfolds in flashbacks as biographer
John Lahr (Wallace Shawn) researches Orton's brief life.
This is director Frears's second film with an openly homosexual theme, the first being 1986's acclaimed MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE, and he attempts to delve deeply into the relationship between the two protagonists. In real life, however, Halliwell was not the bearish brute that Molina's physical
presence indicates; those who knew him say that he had a certain charm of his own as well as a Svengali influence over Orton. Other than the unfortunate miscasting of Molina, an otherwise superb actor, and Wallace Shawn's grating performance, everyone else is right on the money. Oldman, fresh from
his triumph as Sex Pistol Sid Vicious in SID AND NANCY, is the key and holds it all together.
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