“My plays are about getting away with it, and the ones who get away with it are the guilty ones. It’s the innocents who get it in the neck.”
Because the film opens with Orton’s bloody death, there’s no surprise about the outcome of events; instead the shifting power dynamics in Orton and Halliwell’s evolving relationship is the focus of the screenplay. We’re shown Halliwell’s pathological inability to deal with Orton’s sudden success, and Orton’s refusal to leave Halliwell behind despite his desire to be with other men. (In many ways, Prick Up Your Ears is a post-modern variation on A Star is Born.)
The acting throughout is commendable: Oldman is note-perfect as Orton, showcasing his cockiness and pan-sexuality, and Molina is mostly effective (and appropriately creepy) as Halliwell, though he gradually loses our sympathy. Also notable is the incomparable Vanessa Redgrave, in a small yet pivotal role as the third party left behind to tell the world about Orton and Halliwell’s tragic love story.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments: