Prick Up Your Ears
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This unadorned biography of playwright Joe Orton (Gary Oldman) charts his bawdy, dangerous relationships. Alfred Molina plays Orton's brutish lover, Kenneth Halliwell, a pathetic figure who becomes horrific and then tragic before the film is over. The hilarity of scenes from such Orton plays as Loot and What the Butler Saw is evenly balanced by the bleakness of the playwright's tormented (and tormenting) off-stage existence, which ended suddenly at age 34 with half a dozen blows to the head from a hammer. Prick Up Your Ears is based on the book by theater critic John Lahr, who is… More
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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

Critic Reviews from Rotten Tomatoes

"Gary Oldman is excellent as Orton, right down to remarkable resemblance, while Alfred Molina creates both an amusing and tormented Halliwell. Vanessa Redgrave takes top honors, though, as a compassionate and benign agent."
‑ Variety Staff, Variety
"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."
‑ Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
"A brilliant and painfully raw portrait of a troubled, a tragic relationship."
‑ , Film4
"Stands up extraordinarily well: mostly because of two outstanding central performances, Gary Oldman as the talented, blase Orton, and Alfred Molina as his thwarted, Hancock-esque murderer Kenneth Halliwell."
‑ Andrew Pulver, Guardian [UK]
"Offers a creative portrait of playwright Joe Orton's life and death."
‑ Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice
"Oldman is brilliant; Molina's Halliwell less subtle; and the film's dissection of cottaging quaintly amusing."
‑ Dave Calhoun, Time Out
"The filmmakers have shown great intellectual taste. But it's not the kind of taste that's illuminating."
‑ Hal Hinson, Washington Post
"Oldman, fresh from his triumph as Sex Pistol Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy, is the key and holds it all together."
‑ , TV Guide's Movie Guide
"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."
‑ Patrick Peters, Empire Magazine
"Powerful look at the tragic death of Joe Orton, with excellent performances"
‑ James Sanford, Kalamazoo Gazette
"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."
‑ Vincent Canby, New York Times
"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."
‑ Desson Thomson, Washington Post
"Molina stares down all clichés, veering away from effeminate tones when they would be most convenient and avoids trapping Ken into a brooding madman."
‑ Matthew Sorrento, PopMatters
"It is repetitive at times, occasionally lagging, but the performances by Oldman and especially Molina simply demand your attention."
‑ Stella Papamichael, BBC
"Good, but never quite great biopic of Joe Orton"
‑ Ken Hanke, Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
More reviews for Prick Up Your Ears on Rotten Tomatoes