"In this world, there are only two tragedies," Oscar Wilde famously wrote. "One is not getting what we want. The other is getting it." As for Wilde's own desires, they led him to both kinds of tragedy: fame and fortune on the one hand, infamy and misfortune on the other. By the time he was carted off to Reading Gaol to serve two years at hard labor for "gross indecency" (i.e., engaging in homosexual acts), Wilde had become, at one and the same time, the least and most eminent Victorian. Ironically, it's the infamy and misfortune that have kept him alive nearly 100 years after his death. Or is it ironic? For Wilde aspired, above all, to be noticed, even at the cost of being notorious.
Brian Gilbert's sadly moving Wilde seems more interested in Wilde's infamy-and-misfortune side than in his fame-and-fortune side, though it derives no prurient pleasure from Oscar's well-publicized downfall. On the contrary, the movie arranges the main events of Wilde's love life--his marriage, his folie a deux with Lord Alfred Douglas and that heartbreakingly misguided gesture of suing Douglas' father for libel when the marquis referred to him as a "somdomite"--into so many Stations of the Cross. Stephen Fry does a magnificent job of portraying Wilde as a gentle gentleman who wound up a tragic hero. I only wish his Oscar were a comic hero as well.