Though selling itself as a biography of controversial young British playwright Joe Orton, who was murdered in 1967, Prick Up Your Ears actually says very little about Orton the author, but deals almost totally with his relationship with Kenneth Halliwell, his lover and bludgeon killer.
Orton and Halliwell met at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. The inarticulate Orton fell for the seemingly sophisticated Halliwell, and for a while the pic dwells on Orton’s promiscuity, at a time when homosexuality was still illegal in the UK. Suddenly, after years of obscurity, Orton becomes an overnight success.
The script [based on the biography by John Lahr] is witty, the direction fluid, with one of the homosexual orgy scenes in a public toilet almost balletic, and the depiction of the lovers’ life in their flat suitably claustrophobic.
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.