If ten people read this review, nine of you, I would guess, are going to be put-off by this lengthy period piece about a compulsive, sex addict and alcoholic that goes nowhere. "You will not like me. You will like me even less as we go along," Depp's character tells us in the opening monologue. Uh, yeah, I guess so!
Depp plays Johnny (ha!); earl to the crown of Rochester who's drinking and womanizing gets him banished from the country from his father, played by John Malkovich. When Johnny gets back into town, he's back up to his old hat of debauchery and doing anything to upset his father. He takes a young actress under his wing in an attempt to do something good and constructive with his life. He's also married and has to deal with his, of course, disapproving wife; played by Rosamund Pike (Pride & Prejudice). There are other characters involved as well; along with about six different plot lines.
Depp is remarkable (of course) in this character's shoes. Malkovich is his usual great self and the side characters of Johnny's wife, servant and actress understudy are all played to perfection. It's just too bad that the stories are tiresome, uninteresting and at times convoluted and confusing. I just ended up not caring too much about any of them.
The style of the film gets annoying after a while as well. It's very dark. I don't mean metaphorically either. I mean every scene is in some dark side room with a single candle burning. If there is a scene outside, it is cloudy or foggy or night time. The director apparently decided to use a cheaper stock of film that is very grainy. At times, this adds a feel of goth to the story. At other times it made the film look cheap or old. You decide. The costumes and sets were great too, but nothing any more special than any other film set in the 1600's.
The most obvious theme in this film is sex. Johnny's poems and plays are about phallic symbols and orgies of massive proportions. It's no surprise that he develops a scorching case of syphallis (or some sort of STD) and begins to fall apart (literally). The way the characters spoke remind me of the way teens speak in a horror or action movie. Nobody used terms like "what the f**k!?" in the 1600's...I assume. Johnny goes for a walk in the park and people are having sex with each other all over the place. In the street, on horseback and a group of about 15 people are having sex in a tree. Preposterous.
I guess it's just a long drawn out story that didn't hold much interest for me; even on a Sunday afternoon. The acting was terrific, but without a story line that brings me somewhere, it is all meaningless. It felt like being at a play that just kept going and going. My guess is that a lot of critics are going to praise this as an epic film with a unique style and tremendous acting talents throughout (see link to RT, below). And they'd be right. But that doesn't mean I have to give it a thumbs up if I didn't get excited about something from within. So, if you're the tenth person out of ten to read this review, you may enjoy it. The other nine of you should go see something with a bit more flair.