The Libertine (18)
"Every man needs the whorehouse and the inn," says John Wilmot, the second Earl of Rochester. The devilish 17th-century rake and pornographer spends so much time boffing the ladies and boozing the night away that one wonders how he ever found the time for his day job, writing poetry. As the Earl, Johnny Depp fastens onto the bawdy, foul-mouthed script like a terrier on a rat, twitting his king, Charles II (John Malkovich), as blithely as he cheats on his wife (Rosamund Pike). Only when he falls for a young actress (Samantha Morton) does he suggest a vulnerability, by which point syphilis and self-loathing are playing merry hell with him. Moodily shot and boldly played, the film runs out of steam around the hour mark, after which monotony takes hold and Depp, like the Earl himself, slightly outstays his welcome.
The producer-turned-director Stephen Woolley reportedly spent 10 years developing this drama about the last days of the former Rolling Stone Brian Jones, and one only wishes it had been worth the effort. It aims to do with the Stones what Iain Softley's superb Backbeat did with the Beatles 10 years ago, but it's hamstrung on two major counts, the first Leo Gregory's curiously uncharismatic performance, and the second the realisation that there isn't much of a story being told. Paddy Considine provides a class angle as the London builder who becomes Jones's cook and companion, while the technical team deftly nails the outlandish costumes and designs of the period. But Jones himself comes over as little more than a spoilt medieval princeling who beat up women and couldn't handle the drugs. You want to know why this dead rock star mattered? Don't look for an answer here.
Separate Lies (15)
This begins promisingly, in the style of Joseph Losey's 1967 Accident, as a circle of deceit is thrown around the hit-and-run killing of an innocent man. Tom Wilkinson plays a well-to-do solicitor who suspects languid toff Rupert Everett as the culprit, only to discover that the guilty party is actually his own wife (Emily Watson), who also happens to be cuckolding him with Everett. At which point, the rot sets in, and Julian Fellowes' feature debut becomes less of an examination of remorse than a tribute to the very English habits of drinking gin and suffering in silence. Everyone is behaving so awfully well to one another by the end of the film that I longed for a cleansing blast of misanthropy.
This is a report from the front line of unheroic boozing. Matt Dillon, heavy and bearded, plays Hank Chinaski, a deadbeat who's fired from one job after another. All he cares about is the bottle, the horses and his desultory writing habit. His other distraction is fellow soak Jan (Lili Taylor), with whom he shares a bed and a bowl to throw up in. The director, Bent Hamer (Kitchen Stories), handles it with the right mixture of impassive cool and understated drollery, while Dillon gives one of the performances of his career.