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This artful and brooding period piece follows John Wilmot (Johnny Depp), a scandalously debauched earl of the English Restoration who apparently was not in contact with feelings of compassion or sympathy. The film opens with an attack — "I am John Wilmot, the second Earl of Rochester, and I do not want you to like me," the earl snarls — and doesn't soften, despite Wilmot's infatuation with actress Lizzie Barry (Samantha Morton). By the time the alcoholism and syphilis have peeled the skin from Wilmot's face and the muscle from his bones, it's difficult not to feel at least a little tainted by his vast personal plague — and also moved, if not by his own self-loathing then by the care of those around him. The Libertine is an interesting film, and a good one, with a harrowing performance by Depp, whose apparent enjoyment of the role seems only to increase as his character deteriorates. John Malkovich, playing King Charles II, is a delight.

Now playing at perhaps as few as two local theaters


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