The Libertine | Chicago Reader

The Libertine

Johnny Depp's finely calibrated performance as the dissolute Restoration poet John Wilmot, second earl of Rochester, elevates this 2005 feature debut by Laurence Dunmore above most period dramas. Stephen Jeffreys adapted his own play about the stormy relationship between Wilmot and King Charles II (John Malkovich), the wily monarch who steered England to recovery after civil war. Depp plays the earl as a self-loathing sybarite who condemns the licentiousness of the age but indulges in excess so wretched it eventually kills him. As the imperious actress (and whore) Elizabeth Barry, the unlikely object of Wilmot's affection, Samantha Morton finds the soul in a woman who's hard as nails, and Tom Hollander and Rosamund Pike also provide excellent support. The haunting score is by Michael Nyman. R, 114 min.

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