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R: ARCHIVE, S: MOVIES, D: 06/04/1998,


In Brian Gilbert's brocaded bio-pic, Stephen Fry is all heavy-lidded insouciance and bulky lust as the film climbs the apex of Oscar Wilde's enormous popularity. Although married, the 19th-century dramatist and purveyor of bon mots outs himself and falls in tempestuous love with a beautiful but spoiled boy toy, Lord Alfred of Queensberry, a/k/a "Bosie" (Jude Law). Infuriated by the affair, Bosie's brutal father (The Full Monty's Tom Wilkerson) accuses Wilde of sodomy, and the playwright rear-ends his accuser with a famously ill-fated libel suit.

Fry's Wilde is equal parts flamboyance and fragility, a tortured soul who melts at the sight of downy youth but grieves for his jilted family. Law's Bosie, however, is such a bratty narcissist, it's hard to see as to why Wilde risked all for him. No surprise that the pair's pillow talk spills with eloquence, or that their arty sex scenes break up the film's educational tone. Still, this tale about the genius of paradox presents its own curious puzzle: how a life of such epic passion and tragedy can elicit so little emotional pull. At the Kendall Square.

-- Alicia Potter