3.7 12
Director: Laurence Dunmore

Cast: Johnny Depp, John Malkovich, Samantha Morton


A man who lives for pleasure finds his hedonism betrays him in time in this film adaptation of the play by Stephen Jeffreys. The second Earl of Rochester, John Wilmot (Johnny Depp), was a notorious figure in 17th century Europe; well-respected as a poet and author, Wilmot also earned no small degree of gossip for his freewheeling sex life and appetite for decadence.… See more details below


A man who lives for pleasure finds his hedonism betrays him in time in this film adaptation of the play by Stephen Jeffreys. The second Earl of Rochester, John Wilmot (Johnny Depp), was a notorious figure in 17th century Europe; well-respected as a poet and author, Wilmot also earned no small degree of gossip for his freewheeling sex life and appetite for decadence. Wilmot was close friends with Charles II (John Malkovich), the powerful and Machiavellian ruler of England, and enjoyed a passionate romance with Elizabeth Barry (Samantha Morton), an actress of note. But Wilmot's seemingly charmed life took a turn for the worse when he wrote a satirical play lampooning his friend Charles II; the monarch failed to see the humor, and exiled the author from Britain. Wilmot found little solace in his relationship with Barry, especially after he contracted syphilis and began drinking heavily as the disease tore away at his body and his mind. The Libertine was produced in part by John Malkovich, who played the role of John Wilmot in a production of Stephen Jeffreys' original play.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
In screenwriter Stephen Jeffreys’s adaptation of his own highly acclaimed play, Johnny Depp plays John Wilmot, the real-life earl of Rochester, a notable poet and playwright in 17th-century Britain -- and one of his country’s most notorious hedonists. A self-proclaimed outcast who shunned polite society to consort with licentious scoundrels, Wilmot alienates the very people that expect his love and loyalty, including his wife (Rosamund Pike) and his king (John Malkovich). He takes a fancy, though, to inexperienced stage performer Elizabeth Barry (Samantha Morton) and transforms her, over a period of years, into London’s greatest actress. Their stormy relationship is at the core of this Laurence Dunmore-directed film, which chronicles the earl’s spiritual and physical degeneration. Depp himself seems positively energized by performing in disfiguring makeup that conveys the increasing toll of venereal disease on Wilmot’s flesh. What ultimately emerges is the profoundly sad but compelling story of a gifted man whose self-destructive impulses never diminished his ability to honor truth and beauty.
All Movie Guide
The problem with The Libertine is not that we don't like Johnny Depp's debaucherous and self-destructive Second Earl of Rochester -- as he anticipates in a prologue at the film's outset. The problem is that we never get to know him well enough to have much opinion about him at all. This is not for a lack of hardcore acting, as Depp delivers a fantastic performance in a role for which he could have easily phoned in an R-rated variation on Jack Sparrow, and supporting cast members like the tightly controlled John Malkovich and nakedly unaffected Samantha Morton also rise to the occasion. What The Libertine suffers from is a muddled script; while some scenes illuminate the characters and their relationships very well, the compilation of these scenes adds up to less than the sum of their parts. While the film depicts a sordid antihero whose refusal to utilize his intellectual gifts for more than hedonistic partying and oversexed adolescent rebellion is his downfall, it chokes on its explanation for why the earl is like this, even if the intention was to point out that there's no reason behind his self-sabotaging lifestyle at all. Even the depiction of said lifestyle isn't very clear, as the earl celebrates his reputation as a man-slut and eventually succumbs to the infamous VD consequences, and yet he's never seen in the arms of a woman other than the few he has a history with and commitment to. In this same way, the scenes where Depp coaches Morton in her stage acting never really create a mutually cognitional relationship, and his scenes with Malkovich's King Charles II never really establish the earl's personal paradigms about obligation or authority. It all ends up leaving you too much on the outside to sympathize even with the earl's own bewildered loved ones. Half the time the dialogue is distractingly modern, the other half it's so overstuffed with rapid-fire period speak that by the time you've sorted out all the allusions, puns, and double-negatives, you've missed the next three lines in the script. It doesn't help that on top of a pull-no-punches production of less-than-sanitary 17th century England, the cinematography uses such over-the-top soft focus that the movie looks like it was shot through a glass of piss. First-time director Laurence Dunmore can't be blamed for trying: a story with such personal, political, historical, and psychological ground to cover sounds like any filmmaker's dream. The Libertine shows enough promise that even though he didn't achieve it here, we can probably assume that Dunmore is capable of creating a film in which we may not like the protagonist, but we at least care about what happens to him.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Weinstein Company
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Closed Caption; Deleted scenes; Making of documentary; Director commentary; Theatrical trailer

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Johnny Depp John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester
John Malkovich King Charles II
Samantha Morton Elizabeth Berry
Rosamund Pike Elizabeth Malet
Tom Hollander Sir George Etherege
Johnny Vegas Charles Sackville
Kelly Reilly Jane
Jack Davenport Harris
Richard Coyle Alcock
Francesca Annis Countess
Rupert Friend Downs
Clare Higgins Molly Luscombe
Tom Burke Vaughan

Technical Credits
Laurence Dunmore Director
Chase Bailey Executive Producer
Lucy Bevan Casting
Jill Bilcock Editor
Steve Christian Executive Producer
Louise Goodsill Executive Producer
Lianne Halfon Producer
John Hayes Sound/Sound Designer
Stephen Jeffreys Screenwriter
Ralph Kamp Executive Producer
Max Keene Art Director
John Malkovich Producer
Alexander Melman Cinematographer
Michael Nyman Score Composer
Peter Owen Makeup
Patrick Rolfe Art Director
Peter Samuelson Executive Producer
Marc Samuelson Executive Producer
Roger Savage Sound/Sound Designer
Mary Selway Casting
Russ Smith Producer
Russell Smith Producer
Ben Van Os Production Designer
Dien van Straalen Costumes/Costume Designer

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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- The Libertine
1. You Will Not Like Me [3:49]
2. The Earl of Rochester Returns to London [3:29]
3. The Earl and His Subjects [4:27]
4. A Thief and a Rogue [3:50]
5. The Royal Figure Beckons [5:17]
6. In Which Rochester Meets Elizabeth Barry [4:54]
7. Elizabeth Had her Shakespeare, You Can Be Mine [10:35]
8. They Say Men Fall Three Times [4:47]
9. Still Life With Rochester [4:48]
10. The Different States of Orphelia [5:52]
11. Rochester Returns Home [4:05]
12. Elizabeth Calls on Rochester [4:38]
13. The King's Plan [2:20]
14. The King Conspires With Elizabeth [2:31]
15. The Play [12:13]
16. Rochester As Dr. Bendo [:01]
17. The King Finds the Earl [2:57]
18. Coming Home to Die [4:13]
19. A Death Bed Convert [4:47]
20. Saving the Monarchy [2:01]
21. A Child Out of Passion [6:06]
22. Tried to Speak the Truth [5:29]
23. Rochester's Epilogue [2:59]
24. End Credits [1:28]

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