“Allow me to be frank: you will not like me,” a foppishly dressed Johnny Depp growls directly into the camera. So ends the trailer for his latest picture, The Libertine. After starring in two straight movies which were widely enjoyed by the public (Finding Neverland and Pirates of the Caribbean), Depp is now making a biopic of John Wilmot, the second Earl of Rochester. (Ever known for his controversial roles, Depp may be anxious that his pending two-sequel deal on Pirates could, horror of horrors, brand him as a popularly beloved actor.) The Libertine, an art-house project also starring John Malkovich as Charles II, recounts Wilmot’s debauched and treacherous life, and promises to paint the licentious Earl as the consummate anti-hero of the Restoration court.

The film is being marketed as “the most controversial movie of the year”—controversy, of course, being the only way such a movie ever makes money. However, if it lives up to the trailer’s glimpses of sex, lies, and violence, it will simply be yet another film cut from contemporary Hollywood’s cloth. A Tinseltown movie featuring a rogue who shocks his peers with liberal views on sex?! How scandalous! How original! (Competition note: Touchstone Pictures presents their paean to Casanova just weeks after The Libertine is released.)

However, there is an element in Rochester’s story that could yield a truly controversial film. In popular British culture of old, John Wilmot was indeed legendary—but not as the foppish gent who, as the movie will highlight, wrote a pornographic play lampooning the king who commissioned it. Instead, Wilmot was renowned as one of England’s most famous deathbed converts to the Christian faith. Should this art-house flick boldly depict Wilmot’s ultimate redemption, should it illustrate the staggering ability of God’s grace to reach even the most desperate sinner—should it show us how a libertine once found true liberty—it may well prove to be the year’s most controversial film.

But my hopes aren’t high. Johnny Depp has already predicted it: I probably won’t like the Libertine.

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Posted by Shea Ramquist


  1. Johnny Depp is a freak show anyway… doesn’t surprise me that he’s in a movie like this.


  2. I’m with you, Shea. “Convtroversial” in this sense, means repetitive to the point of being mundane. I for one would be more shocked by a movie about a red-blooded male’s 50th wedding aniversary than the thirty-millionth movie about a “rebel” who sleeps with everything in sight.

    It’s like Freakshow “Marvels” in a circus booth that promise to attract and excite, but become almost immediately boring.

    Compare these “sights” to a run-of-the-mill painting of symmetrical, pleasant human face, the likes of which remain on a museum wall for thousands of years, capturing the enduring interest of millions.

    Maybe when Don makes it to Hollywood, he’ll produce some real shockers: “The Monarch: The story of a King who did his job, consistently and successfully, before dying an honorable death at a ripe old age!”


  3. I look forward to the day when some rebel in Hollywood is brave enough to take the same ol’ tired story in which traditional values are presented through old and irrelevant characters and secular values are packaged as hip and cutting edge and flip-flop the two.

    It wouldn’t even take much brain power or creativity. Just take a movie like Pleasantville or a play like Inherit the Wind and switch the roles. It would be mind-boggling to everyone involved–certainly would be unconventional and counter-cultural and good for some splashy publicity in the media world for at least a day or two.


  4. … And people might actually watch it again in 10 years.


  5. It’s like Groundhog Day, tex.

    One of our profs keenly pointed out that this movie is a not-so-subtle critique of acting like a jerk, and a unilateral endorsement of being a kind, selfless, loving human being… It’s a fun, entertaining, semi-timeless story and it promotes — Oh I’ll just say it — true human excellence.

    And it still gets rentals.

    See IMDB top #250


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