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BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS (R) (2003)

ThinkFilm

Official Site

Director: Stephen Fry

Producers: Gina Carter, Miranda Davis

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 Carter

Rating:


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 of Anatolia.

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.

—Roxanne Bogucka

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

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...


Mike Doughty



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