Bright Young Things (UK; 106 min.)


directed by: Stephen Fry
starring: Stephen Campbell Moore; Emily Mortimer
Bright Young Things
 
Janet says: "Stephen Fry draws on his experience as Wodehouse's Jeeves in adapting this busy story of male and female Bertie Woosters. Lots of fun to watch, with some superb acting (Fenella Woolgar is a millefeuille pastry of irony layered with starch, and Jim Broadbent is magnificent in a minor drunken role), but I agree with Michael that there is a problem with character development. Two characters in particular (fallen aristocrat Simon Balcairn and off-the-campmeter Miles) arrive at showy, emotion-laden denouements without us ever getting a sense of who they are. The problem may be in
trying to cram too much into the screenplay, or it may be an issue of tone. As we saw in Mira Nair's VANITY FAIR, satire doesn't lend itself to creeping sentiment. A couple of other writing missteps were the use of the phrase 'party animal' in the 1920s (I was distracted for at least five minutes after hearing that) and some lead-balloon original song lyrics. A good diversion; may send me to the library to experience the original. 3
cats from me, 3.5 from my cousin Charlotte."
 

Michael says: "I was surprised to find this to be the biggest disappointment of the festival. Fry tackles Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies, a look at the free-wheeling, decadent social set in Britain in the months leading up to World War II. A great many characters show up in this film, but only a handful get any development. Adam, a struggling writer, needs to make some money in order to marry his beloved Nina, a bored, partying socialite. When he is assigned to write the gossip column of London's biggest newspaper, he and Nina make up fabulous people to report about in order to avoid dishing about their friends. But Adam's fortunes are as whimsical as the wind as he finds himself wealthy, then boke, then wealthy, then broke, etc. The arrival of the War changes the face of England, and brings the film to its proper and oh-so predictable end. Acting is strong... Emily Mortimer is wonderful as Nina, and Fenella Woolgar is a scream as her friend Agatha. Cameos from the likes of Dan Akroyd, Stockard Channing and the divine Imelda Staunton keep things interesting, as do the gorgeous set and costume design. Unfortunately, it was not enough for me. 2 cats"

 

Peg says: "Adapted from the novel Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh, Stephen Fry has made a sumptuous, naughty, breezy and ultimately note-worthy addition to the canon of films chronicling the fall of the English aristocracy's idle rich ( the 'bright young things') to the financial and social hardships of World War II.

"Fry imbues the story with a slyly contemporary sensibility (the opening party scene feels at times like a New York rave or Hollywood opening except that the costumes, sets and other details are letter-perefct in their authenticity). The production design veers wildly between grandiose and seedy--perfect details of texture and design (plenty of Art Deco here), a lush utilization of sets and locations, and wonderful use of period music (particularly the songs of Noel Coward).

"Ostensibly a love story, the central drama is that of a young couple kept apart because he has no money and she has no desire to live without it. Subplots involving political scandals, gossip columnists and the arrest of homosexuals on 'morality charges' keep the film lively.

" A stellar cast includes Jim Broadbent, Richard E. Grant in too small a cameo, Stockard Channing in an odd, scary role, and a score of young pretty Brits with perfect skin and the insouciant confidence of knowing they're voicing some of the wittiest lines seen in a screenplay in years. 4 cats"

 
Thom says: "Stephen Fry's BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS, adapted from the Evelyn Waugh (yes, that Evelyn Waugh!) novel Vile Bodies is not very well grounded. Starring Emily Mortimer, Jim Broadbent, Peter O'Toole, E. Richard Grant, Stockard Channing, Stephen Campbell Moore, Imelda Staunton, John Mills, Simon Callow, Dan Aykroyd, & Bruno Laska you're asking how could it possibly fail? I asked myself the same question. While not one single character in the film was the least bit interesting, one might well say that was the point. But the characterizations were so shallow, and the proceedings so blasé, I simply felt no compulsion to watch it. The one protagonist, that should have risen above the fray (Moore) came across as a weak sister. It's all well and good to criticize cafe and party society, but there was no alternative presented at all. 2 cats I did love the Jesus song presented by Channing's flock at some party."
 
Chris says: "Watching first-time director (and it shows) Stephen Fry's adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies was like a trip to the dentist's, albeit one with lots of Novocain. As I took in the sumptuous camerawork, pretty faces and vaguely outlandish situations, all I felt was a little numbed. I'm not familiar with Waugh's novel, but I'm assuming/hoping it has more substance and bite than this. By the end, I couldn't care less about the fate of the two leads (strangely dull Emily Mortimer and even duller newcomer Stephen Campbell Moore). In minor roles, Jim Broadbent (who couldn't possibly be boring if he tried) and the fetching Fenella Woolgar (her loopy joyride is a highlight) sporadically make this often silly, empty period piece worthwhile. 2 cats
 
Bruce says: "What a disappointing film! Reading Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies, a parody of outrageous, self-indulgent behavior of the British upper classes in pre-depression days, was one of the great delights of my late teenage years. I have often wondered why the satirical novel was never subject for a film. Seeing BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS offers plenty of clues. Waugh created vivid characters - extraordinary likeable and outrageously detestable - and he steered them through true-to-life circumstances and hysterical flights of fantasy. The characters inhabiting Vile Bodies are cartoons illustrating the silly contradictions of upper crust life.

"BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS might have been a better film had not an actor been at the helm. The various characters of Waugh’s novel offer too many opportunities for overacting. The source material is so strong that subtly of performance would have complemented it well. Two important departures from the novel also lessen the impact of the film. The outrageous inventions of Mr. Chatterbox, a social climbing gossip columnist, are slighted in the film. To increase his readership, Mr. Chatterbox creates imaginary people and make believe parties. Soon all of London society claims the people mentioned by Chatterbox are intimate acquaintances and the parties were absolutely divine. This is covered in a matter of seconds in the film and the whimsy of the novel is destroyed. The ending of the film turns the story into a silly tale of romance, thus diminishing the social satire.

"Emily Mortimer and Stephen Campbell Moore are the young lovers, Nina Blount and Adam Fenwick-Symes. Adam’s novel is confiscated by customs as he returns to London from Paris and his dreams of having enough money to marry Nina are shattered. To make ends meet he becomes the latest Mr. Chatterbox. The film’s narrative line involves friends and family closest to these two. Neither Ms. Mortimer nor Mr. Moore is vaguely charming, making the relationship difficult to hold the viewer’s interest.

"Fenella Woolgar plays a young girl who is born to party. She steals the show in two very funny scenes. The first occurs as she is invited by a friend to an overnight party when she is blind drunk. In the morning she stumbles into the dining room to discover that she has awakened at 10 Downing Street. The second scene is one in which she literally looses her mind and finds herself as the substitute driver in a major car race.

"Simon Callow, Stockard Channing, Peter O’Toole, Richard E. Grant and Jim Broadbent all take turns chewing up the sets. Such carrying on is a waste of fine talent and a disservice to Evelyn Waugh. 2 cats"

 
Ivy says: "Having not read the book, I wasn’t as disappointed with the film. I do want to read the book after seeing the movie though. I definitely felt that the book would offer more depth and clarity than the film did but isn’t that always the frustration of an adaptation... Well, not always but a lot of the time.

"I love Stephen Fry and am admittedly very impartial. I agree that the film isn’t brilliant, but I did find it quite a romp – but that might just be because I will let Fry get away with a lot more than another filmmaker... Thanks for the additional prompt to read the book Bruce! I can’t wait."