Rupert Everett isn’t the only reason to see “The Happy Prince.” But he’s the main one.

Rupert Everett isn’t the only reason to see “The Happy Prince.” But he’s the main one.

Everett plays Oscar Wilde in his declining years in this biopic, which he also wrote and directed. He delivers a bravura performance as the Irish writer and celebrated wit.

Formerly the toast of London (as seen in flashbacks), Wilde has been living in Paris since a libel suit he filed backfired and he wound up serving a prison term for sodomy and gross indecency.

Using an assumed name to avoid further repercussions, Wilde now often walks the Parisian streets alone, a defeated, tragic figure in prematurely bad health who must hit up old friends or strangers for enough money for drinking or the occasional tryst with a young male prostitute. Long estranged from his wife (Emily Watson) and two children, he still has occasional contact with his loyal friend Reggie Turner (Colin Firth) and two longtime rival lovers, supportive Robbie Ross (Edwin Thomas) and the spoiled, sometimes cruel Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas (Colin Morgan), the great passion of Wilde’s life.

Everett portrays Wilde as a complex man, who acknowledges that he’s both a victim of his own unchecked id and a repressive society in which homosexual activity is illegal. Despite being scorned by many, including those from his formerly adoring public, he still inspires love and admiration among those closest to him. Despite his hedonistic lifestyle, he has a strong interest in the Catholic Church. His clever sense of humor remains, but much of his previous spark, the gaiety, is missing. It’s difficult to remain carefree when you’re disgraced, destitute and near death.

It’s hard to know what to make of this man, and perhaps that’s the point. There’s Oscar Wilde at the peak of his fame, the supremely confident playwright of “The Importance of Being Earnest,” and there’s Oscar Wilde, the downtrodden social outcast of his later years.

Same person. Same life. But what a difference.