Based on John Lahr's biography
of the same name and co-written by Alan Bennett, Prick Up Your Ears
charts the 16-year relationship between the monstrously talented but deeply selfish playwright Joe Orton (Gary Oldman), author of West End farces such as Loot
and What the Butler Saw
, and his neurotic but nevertheless wronged lover and collaborator Kenneth Halliwell (Alfred Molina). Halliwell introduced Orton to art, literature and gay sex only to see his protégeacute; outstrip his mentor with innate and rampant talent for sexual conquest. By turns hilarious and excoriatingly painful, it's as much a tribute to an anti-hero of our times-Orton's ruthless frankness and anarchic mindset helped form the basis of what's called the "queer" sensibility today--as it is a portrait of the Swinging 60s just after the reform of anti-homosexuality laws irrevocably changed society. The modern-day framing device has Lahr (Wallace Shawn) researching his book through interviews with Peggy Ramsay (Vanessa Redgrave), Orton's agent and the diary he wrote, a nimble device which ends up drawing a provocative parallel between Orton and Halliwell's relationship and that of Lahr and his wife (Lindsay Duncan). Director Stephen Frears, fresh off the back of the also-gay-themed My Beautiful Laundrette
, nimbly balances our sympathies for both the protagonists while the leads give what may in retrospect look like the standout performances of their careers: Oldman was never more feral and charming, while Molina, foppishingly fretting over his wig and decrying that his lover "even sleeps better than I do" is simply heartbreaking. --Leslie Felperin
The life story of controversial 1960s playwright Joe Orton (Gary Oldman), revealed in flashback after his murder by lover Kenneth Halliwell (Alfred Molina). Born in Leicester, Orton moves to London and enjoys an openly gay relationship with Halliwell in their famous Islington flat. However, when Orton achieves spectacular success with such plays as 'What the Butler Saw' and 'Loot', Halliwell begins to feel alienated and the pair's future looks increasingly uncertain.