Quills delivers the subterranean sexual excavations of Marquis de Sade to the silver screen. This chapter in the life of history's infamous libertine/sex offender is based on an award-winning play by Douglas Wright. Also screenwriter, Wright's literate wit thrives in the Hollywood version.
As a result of his lechery, de Sade got himself tossed in the slammer. Most of Quills occurs in the Charenton prison where de Sade (Geoffrey Rush) continues to publish scandalous prose via the assistance of a sexy virgin maid (Kate Winslet). Dr. Royer-Collard (Michael Caine) comes to direct the prison and quell de Sade's gutter productivity, replacing Joaquin Phoenix' more progressive prison-keeper.
The script may be the real star here. Of course, it favors de Sade, polishing up the freedom-of-expression issues while downplaying his florid advocacy of child molestation, torture, necrophilia, etc. Geoffrey Rush relishes the role. The supporting cast is vivid as well. Royer-Collard's psychological grapplings with de Sade are rendered with bite; Winslet and Phoenix fully flesh out what could have been minor roles. Far from perfect, Quills lags in spots and preaches in others. Overall it is a lively, smart portrayal of a figure who has fascinated many.