Prick Up Your Ears | Chicago Reader

Prick Up Your Ears

The life and violent death of British playwright Joe Orton, based on the biography by John Lahr. Director Stephen Frears turns the incidental gay theme of his previous My Beautiful Laundrette into this film's behavioral and emotional center: it's playwright as sexual personality he's interested in—a portrait of the artist as phallic performer (nonexplicitly, of course, since Frears's commercial audience consists primarily of middle-class straights)—which leaves a lot of creative questions hanging. The film is—surprisingly, given the inherent provocation—a stodgy, unremarkable piece of work, though in terms of mainstream marketability Frears's boresome, boring-in strategy seems disarmingly canny: he cuts right through the usual moralizing assumptions (even the crossover Parting Glances couldn't do that: it kept looking over its shoulder for straight approval) by refusing to acknowledge their monopolizing claim. As Orton, Gary Oldman doesn't register strongly, though Alfred Molina, flamboyantly effective as Orton's long-term lover and eventual slayer, makes up for the deficit. With Vanessa Redgrave, Wallace Shawn, and Julie Walters.

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