Prick Up Your Ears Review

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an exploration of the tragic relationship Joe Orion's wide-eyed provincial youth then lionised playwright and cultivated and educated lover Kenneth Halliwell.


Scripted by Alan Bennett from John Lahr’s biography of playwright Joe Orton, this is less an insight into the man than a story inspired by his murder by lover Kenneth Halliwell in 1967. Thus Gary Oldman and Alfred Molina rework The Odd Couple as a gay melodrama, in which the older, stuffier Halliwell comes to regret encouraging the amoral Orton to indulge his sexual and literary proclivities.

Director Stephen Frears ably captures dreary pre-Beatles Britain and its timid attitude to non-conformity. However, Orson’s theatrical success is downplayed to retain focus on how his success affected his increasingly alienated mentor. Consequently, the film loses its iconoclastic edge.

A decent snapshot of pre-Beatle Britain, this is much more a fact-based gay melodrama than a trenchant portrait of Joe Orton's life, loves and art.