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289 Ratings

Prick Up Your Ears

Directed by Stephen Frears
United Kingdom, 1987
Biography, Drama, LGBTQ+


This film is the story of the spectacular life and violent death of British playwright Joe Orton. In his teens, Orton is befriended by the older, more reserved Kenneth Halliwell, and while the two begin a relationship, it’s fairly obvious that it’s not all about sex.

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Prick Up Your Ears Directed by Stephen Frears

Critics reviews

Thirty years ago, the lives of gay luminaries were rarely the subject of feature films. Among the first of the LGBT biopics, Stephen Frears’s astute Prick Up Your Ears (1987), which traces the fast, furious life of Joe Orton, begins with the British playwright’s murder at the hands of his longtime boyfriend. Though the gruesome details of the killing are starkly depicted in the closing minutes, the film never sensationalizes — and just as radically, never sentimentalizes — its central figure.
August 29, 2017
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Pre-festival buzz had positioned Stephen Frears’s Prick Up Your Ears, about the sudden celebrity and sordid death of playwright Joe Orton, as the gem of that year’s English crop, but Frears shows little feel for his characters’ seamy milieu. The fragmented, flashback-based structure of Alan Bennett’s script clutters more than it reveals, and in tone and insight, the performances are all over the map.
May 22, 2017
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Some have compared Orton with Oscar Wilde; but although he figures in dictionaries of quotations, his epigrams seem weak. The strength of his plays is their high-spirited naughtiness, a Cheeky Chappie’s irreverence, Max Miller turned cruel and camp. Bennett and Frears, between them, have coaxed from Gary Oldman a performance which stunningly walks that tightrope between our fascination and our mistrust.
March 01, 1987
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