Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bright Young Things (2003)

I'm not entirely sure if a piece of media that has anything at all to do with the popular and funny genius Stephen Fry can be considered even remotely obscure enough to feature on blahblahblahgay but this film adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's delightful book of early 20th century excess, Vile Bodies, was his debut as director and because he is not seen at any point during the movie it may have passed quite a lot of people by.

But not I, seen when it first appeared on DVD, purchased for the miserly sum of £3 as an ex rental and promptly added to a stack of movies I may have never watched again. Until, that is, I met Leah who I knew would also love this film. And love it she did. I am not sure how many times she has put the DVD on but when we left the UK it was one of very few movies she couldn't part with. Yes, in a world where we can replace things in digital form so easily we kept some actual discs.

Fry managed to put together an absolutely incredible cast of household names and up and comers, Jim Broadbent, Dan Aykroyd, Stockard Channing, and Peter O'Toole in the former and Emily Mortimer (who, by the way, I have a little crush on) James McAvoy (a few years before Inside I'm Dancing, Last King of Scotland and Atonement,) Michael Sheen (three years before The Queen made him a household name and more before he was every modern English historical figure in film) and Dr Who himself David Tennant in the latter. A man with an eye for talent that Mr Fry.

Not a huge amount to discuss with the posters for this film. I don't think there was a huge budget involved but at least the image on the right doesn't look overly trashy despite the attempt to modernise the content with gossip magazine fonts and that awful burning typewriter image they must've picked up free online from the websites that previously offered free clipart.

Voice over guy! His voice belongs on a Bruce Willis movie, not a whimsical piece of satire made by an intellectual but despite him saying everything the title cards said the trailer covers quite a lot of the subject matter giving you a good feel about what is to come. These people are either so terribly bored, terribly clueless or trying terribly hard.

To synopsise for you; it's 1929, Adam is an aspiring writer who wants to marry Nina, Nina is part of a group of rich and largely vapid friends, concerned with material objects and their partying lifestyle unaware of the changes to be brought about by an impending war. Throughout there are countless moments of shenaniganising, drink and drug fuelled parties, lies, blackmail, poverty, slapstick, gossip, scandal and lime green bowler hats. It's a comedic drama with a splash of romance.

Filled with wonderful moments of humour and a particular attention to detail with regards to the wardrobe of the period, this is an enjoyable movie that could quite easily be told about modern society. They're all so fabulous, these bright young things, it brings to mind the current hipster trend and the one before it, I have spent many nights in bars and clubs with people far too bored for their own good, whose image is based on being seen to not enjoy the things they're doing and of finding everyone beneath them. I enjoyed seeing the absurdities of it all played out in front of me, at once both highlighting the glamour and satirising the attitudes.

This choice not to demonise or judge the characters is what makes the movie work for me, I think we all see aspects of our own personality in Adam, Nina, Miles and Agatha and our enjoyment would be severely dented if Fry then judged negatively. William Goldman said of that other film about the vile bodies and bright young things, The Great Gatsby, in his 1983 book Adventures in the Screen Trade that the director was both totally obsessed and incensed by the excesses of high society that he made an empty movie about unlikeable people but happily that was not the case with Bright Young Things.

With a cast as mentioned above you are guaranteed to enjoy this film for their performances alone, Peter O'Toole especially, but the adventures are told in a whirlwind manner that takes you from party to party, dilemma to denouement to crisis without pausing for a long slow shot of somebody crying with a long orchestral piece of music in the background.

Fry has no real discernible style based on one film but he dives headfirst in to this one. Allowing the film to move along at a frenetic pace that differentiates itself from other films set in that period, with their tendency to stop the action to allow a knowledgeable modern audience time to reflect on the forthcoming change that WWII brings, underpinning all of the fun with a sense of maudlin. Here you have no time for those thoughts, right up until they all go off to war.

The epilogue of the film is a creation of the director, an attempt to provide a satisfying ending to the paying public, one which Waugh chose not to dwell on in the original source material and as such for me it is the weakest part of the film. It is not just the dramatic change in tone it is an unbelievable change of personality in the characters and this always leaves me feeling a bit blah about the whole thing. It's not for a few days that the memories of those wonderful characters and their crazy antics start popping back in to my mind.

Bright Young Things (2003) DivX - icefilms.info


  1. Loved this movie! I completely agree with you re: whirlwind, frenetic pace. Pondering the future is not at all what these people were about.

    Excellent point about Fry being the right person to direct it, too.

  2. Nice post my friend - I'll make sure to follow you - you need more than 6 followers! :D

  3. hey duke thanks for stopping by, welcome to the world of blahmovies