THE LIBERTINE (Laurence Dunmore). 114 minutes. Opens Friday (March 10). For venues and times, see Movies, page page 107. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
The Libertine is a movie in which a midget rides a giant penis and a plain-looking prostitute becomes the toast of the London stage, yet the only thing you will truly be able to commit faultlessly to your memory is Johnny Depp 's turn as the titular libertine, John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester.
This is his hammiest, most scenery-chewing performance since Jack Sparrow in Pirates Of The Caribbean, and he obliterates everyone else in the picture, including John freaking Malkovich , who plays King Charles II. Even Samantha Morton 's game attempt to play his lover, the feminist/acclaimed actor Lizzie Barry, and Rosamund Pike 's skilful take on his spurned yet devoted wife, Elizabeth, are overshadowed.
Hell, the life story of the 17th-century poet, wit, nobleman and unrepentant king of debauchery is itself superfluous. All you need to know is that this is really a cinematic version of Bad Men And The Women Who Love Them.
You can't say director Lawrence Dunmore didn't try hard to take our attention away from Depp, what with the out-of-focus shots and desaturated colour film. His decision to let playwright Stephen Jeffreys write the screenplay results in the kind of overly speechy dialogue more appropriate to the stage.
If a scene of dancing with dildos doesn't divert us from Depp's seductive smirk, nothing will.