Imperfect Gentleman

Where's the last place you'd expect an Oscar Wilde bio-pic to begin? A Colorado silver mine, you say? Well, that's exactly where England's first outed celebrity makes his entrance -- on horseback, no less -- in Wilde. Of course, at that point he's still straight, on the verge of marriage and fatherhood; it's not until he meets the right bloke that Wilde pulls an Anne Heche and suddenly discovers he's gay.

All the rage in the U.K., Wilde makes its way overseas where it will undoubtedly get a warm reception. There's a lot to like about it, beginning with Stephen Fry (we saw him in Peter's Friends), who plays Wilde with the charms of a pussycat. He's an extravagantly kind chap whose inadvertent literary success has made him famous and whose affair with the scheming (but sexy) Lord Alfred Douglas (played by Jude Law) has made him lovesick. And then there are the locations, the decor, the clothes.

Unfortunately, Wilde offers little of what made Wilde so popular in the first place: wit. (Except for one jab at Catholics, Fry's Wilde is relatively tame.) The film also gives no sense of the childhood that fostered the writer's developing talent, aside from cameo appearances by Vanessa Redgrave as his open-minded mum. Still, Wilde could be worse as a portrait of a gay artist: No word yet on that made-for-TV movie about George Michael. Wilde opens May 29 at the Uptown Theatre in Minneapolis. Call 825-6006 for details.

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