Written by: Stephen Fry; from the novel Vile
Bodies by Evelyn Waugh
Cast: Stephen Campbell Moore, Emily Mortimer,
Fenella Woolgar, Dan Aykroyd, James McAvoy, Stockard Channing,
Simon Callow, Imelda Staunton, Jim Broadbent, Peter O’Toole,
John Mills, Richard E. Grant, David Tennant, Harriet Walter,
Michael Sheen, Julia McKenzie. Guy Henry, Bill Paterson, Jim
It’s a mark of our misguided times that this movie is rated
R for “some drug use” rather than for the wholly amoral
protagonists, who have no care for anything in life but their own
merry-go-rounds of pleasure. Raconteur, wit, and man-about-town
Stephen Fry has concocted an excess of cleverness
and style from Evelyn Waugh’s poisoned pen
novel, Vile Bodies. On the down side, Fry hews to the British
tradition of humor from embarrassment On the plus side, clearly
Fry’s Altman experience rubbed off on him.
He took everything he learned from Gosford Park and assembled
this oh-so-grand cast for his show, and has moments where several
conversations or events transpire at once. In place of the ditties
of Ivor Novello we get loads of Noel Coward
songs. We also get fabulous wardrobe, because, again, we’re
dealing with the idle rich..
Well sort of. Adam Symes (Moore), though most
’scrutiatingly idle, is hardly rich. His novel, meant to provide
the wherewithal for him to marry his Nina (Mortimer),
gets seized by a hilarious Customs officer, as pornography. When
Adam can neither deliver the novel nor pay back the advance he received,
Lord Monomark (Aykroyd, playing the lovechild of
Lord Beaverbrook and Rupert Murdoch),
forces him to write tabloid columns on the wild revels of the bright
young things. Bright Young Things indicts the brand of
journalism that pimps celebrity and the johns who read about it,
all in one throw, while remaining rather sympathetic to the subjects
of tabloid articles. Think of Adam as a 1930s version of the Parker
Posey character in Party Girl and you’ll
have it about right.
Fry writes nice floaty party-boy dialogue. (I heard my favorite
line so far this year: “This is the this-most of them all!”
Excellent Wildean stuff.) Moore’s good at being a vapid party-boy
while managing to give the sense that, underneath it all is a real
human being with real passions. After he and Nina make love, it’s
Adam who remains in the bed, unclothed, and sunk in lovesick knowledge
that what transpired was far more transforming for him than it was
for Nina. He evokes that here is something that’s real, as
opposed to the endless round of parties that makes up their lives.
He’s a careless person who’s made to ’fess up
to caring, and once one starts caring… well who knows where
that might lead.
But the majority of the movie is given over to the exploits of
the bright young things, who, it turns out, only appear idle. What
with the all-night parties, the cocaine, the flamboyant sexuality,
they actually put a great deal of time and effort into having “fun”
and being shocking. And very hard work it is, too, hard work that
might be wasted on an audience jaded by the exploits of Britney
and Puffy et al. Some might say that Bright
Young Things moves a tad slowly in places. Some might even
say that it gets a bit boring. Unlax. It’s the point. All
the dancing and drugging and sexing has lost its savor. The cast
does a fine job at showing how being frantically all-play—as
in Bright Lights, Big City, a sort of spiritual cousin
to this movie—can grow old and get out of hand.
During the course of this, the humorous portion of the program,
Adam and Nina’s marriage is on again and off again as Adam
engages in a series of dubious financial schemes with a series of
enjoyable characters. The most notable of these are Jim
Broadbent as the drunken major; Peter O’Toole
as Nina’s daffy papa; and Simon Callow, borrowing
from the Laurence Olivier playbook, as the King
So it’s a bit of a shock when the last fourth of Bright
Young Things takes quite a serious turn, then turns again for
an unnecessarily neat wrap-up. Still, minutes spent watching Moore,
who’s in nearly every scene, are worthwhile. Someone once
said, “This is the sort of thing that people who like this
sort of thing will like.” Indeed.
Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.
Itís worth a full-price ticket.
Itís worth a matinee ticket.
Wait for video rental.
Check out the video from the library, if you must.
While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...