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Prick Up Your Ears

This biographical drama focuses on controversial British playwright Joe Orton, revealed in flashback after his murder by lover Kenneth Halliwell. Orton moves to London in 1951 and enjoys an openly gay relationship with Halliwell. However, when Orton achieves spectacular success with such plays as 'What the Butler Saw' and 'Loot', Halliwell begins to feel alienated and the pair's future looks increasingly uncertain.
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WHAT ARE CRITICS SAYING?

75

TV Guide Magazine by

Other than the unfortunate miscasting of Molina, an otherwise superb actor, and Wallace Shawn's grating performance, everyone else is right on the money. Oldman, fresh from his triumph as Sex Pistol Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy, is the key and holds it all together.
70

Time Out by Dave Calhoun

Oldman is brilliant; Molina’s Halliwell less subtle; and the film’s dissection of cottaging quaintly amusing.
75

Washington Post by Desson Thomson

Like Casablanca, Diva, Clockwork Orange and countless other quality-cult films, Prick Up Your Ears has an indefinable idiosyncrasy that makes you want to come back for more.
50

Washington Post by Hal Hinson

The movie is a joyless, inconclusive affair. By not making Orton either a homosexual hero or a working-class hero, avenues that were both open to them and that lesser minds might have traveled down, the filmmakers have shown great intellectual taste. But it's not the kind of taste that's illuminating. Ultimately, they seem not to have known exactly what to make of their subject.
70

Village Voice by Melissa Anderson

As a portrait of a relationship and a creative partnership, Prick is ever alert to the shifts in power, to the narcissistic wounds that can never be salved when a teacher is surpassed by his pupil.
60

Empire by Patrick Peters

A decent snapshot of pre-Beatle Britain, this is much more a fact-based gay melodrama than a trenchant portrait of Joe Orton's life, loves and art.
100

The Guardian by Peter Bradshaw

Gary Oldman’s superb livewire performance is now virtually an authentic testament of the man himself. Alfred Molina’s morose, self-hating Halliwell is also utterly convincing: Bennett’s script cleverly conveys their long years of bickering domesticity.
100

Chicago Sun-Times by Roger Ebert

The great performances in the movie are, of course, at its center. Gary Oldman plays Orton and Alfred Molina plays Halliwell, and these are two of the best performances of the year.
50

The New York Times by Vincent Canby

The film covers the main events of the Orton life in a manner that is nothing less than distracted. One has little understanding of the fatal intensity - and need - that kept Orton and Halliwell together.

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