Like Party Monster, it chronicles meteoric rises and terrible falls, Where Alig and St. James rose and fell together, though, Orton and Halliwell seemed always to be going in opposite directions. Where Kenneth Halliwell came from moderate wealth, declining at an increasing pace, Joe Orton came from nothing, slowly improving himself until he became the toast of the London theater.
This was, not surprisingly, the recipe for Halliwell's despondency, the death of their relationship and ultimately the vicious murder-suicide that starts the film.
It's a nasty little film, not nice at all, but a worthy watch.
Vanessa Redgrave is fabulous as Orton's high-society agent Peggy, but nothing approaches the delightful performances by Gary Oldman (Orton) and Alfred Molina (Halliwell). It's interesting watching them in a film from nearly 20 years ago.
Oldman as the polite, young, attractive and subtle (yes, subtle) Orton is a wild contrast to the roles he takes these days (Dracula, Lost in Space, The Fifth Element). Oh, and he's fucking gorgeous in this film. Can't forget that.
Molina? Watching Halliwell change from the 20-something self-assured (if kind of sexually repressed) wise-beyond-his-years (if a bit pompous) aspiring author to the valium-popping basket-case is impressive. Kind of like watching him play Doc Ock and seeing him play totally over the top intensity and insanity but not chewing the scenery. And while Gary Oldman has moved from gorgeous to somewhat strange looking, Molina, a few wrinkles aside, still looks much like he did in the 80's.
Anyway, it's kind of a product of its era, but it doesn't feel as dated as many other gay-themed films of the time.
BTW, if you're looking for an... interesting read, John Lahr (who wrote both the Orton biography Prick Up Your Ears and collaborated on the screenplay) edited and published an edition of Joe Orton's Diaries.