18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 8 September 2010
I do mind, but perhaps not "terribly," that Waugh's satyrical, absurd masterpiece has been reduced to an entertaining, engaging, but not at all deep or thought-provoking flick. The cast is superb, especially James McAvoy as the neurotic Early of Balcairn whose "swan song" comes across with a keen balance between pathos, irony, and the ridiculous. Discovering Fry, director and screenwriter, in the small but in a way crucial role of the limousine chaffeur, is a neat surprise which puts a tiny twist on the viewer's experience. Fenella Woolgar's Agatha Runcible is perhaps a little weak and vague at times, but she remains the loveable and tragically victimized bright young thing of the novel. Julia McKenzie's Lottie Crump is a delight - but that's one comical character which would be hard to spoil.
The rest of the cast is equally brilliant, and the movie, on the whole, is a feast for the eyes of any fan of the British cinema. However, it is not a feast for the intellect of any fan of Waugh. Perhaps it's just as well - Waugh should be enjoyed through the page, not the screen - and I wouldn't mind if the changes made to the original storyline were not so terribly out of tune with it. But they are. Especially the ending, dripping with syrupy sentiment as sticky as the wax of the milliard candles wasted on that scene, is bound to annoy anyone who has read and loved "Vile Bodies." A little less of burlesque and sentimentality, a little less of P. G. Wodehouse and a little more of Evelyn Waugh, and this could have been a brilliant adaptation.
89 of 94 people found the following review helpful
on 26 March 2004
Stephen Fry's directorial debut didn't cause much of a splash at the box office, and received a fairly thorough critical panning. I had no plans to see this film due to the press criticism, but when I eventually got around to it, I was very pleasantly surprised.
The film rattles along at a great pace, with fantastic characters and great acting - Stephen Campbell Moore is a great lead, and Fenella Woolgar's Agatha Runcible is one of the funniest characters I've seen in a film.
The story is set in the 20s, but deals with the mores of our age - celebrity, decadence and style over substance. The film also looks amazing - capturing the colour, dazzle and decadence of the period. The visual richness is reminiscent of the deep colours and glitter used in Cabaret.
I wouldn't be surprised if Bright Young Things got bad reviews because of Stephen Fry - maybe critics don't want 'director' added to his already bulging CV. Don't believe the hype! See the film!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 29 August 2011
As a fan of Stephen Fry, Evelyn Waugh and many of the actors involved in this film, I was so confident that I would like it that I purchased the DVD. What a mistake that was!
While the novel 'Vile Bodies' may satirise the young idle rich and their vacuous lifestyles - and while Stephen Fry may have aimed for the same effect in his film - I found 'Bright Young Things' actually painful to watch. About a third of a way in, I realised that I was wishing each and every character a grisly and humiliating death - possibly because it seemed that Fry was altogether too affectionate in his depiction of these nauseating upper class twits.
I realise that that is the actual POINT of the film (!), and that the fortunes of the characters change with WWII etc., but I couldn't stick with it to the end. Perhaps the film turns into a masterpiece by then, in which case I will owe the filmmaker an apology and probably shouldn't be reviewing it at all. And to be fair, I chucked in an extra star for the accuracy with which the actors were able to convey the chinless classes. The cinematography was nice too. But apart from that... no.
I feel slightly mean giving the film two stars, as the direction, acting etc. were perfectly OK - but it just struck me as irritating in the extreme.
40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on 5 March 2009
I have to admit, I did buy this ONLY because James McAvoy is in it (and he is, as always, absolutely marvellous in it), although i have always admired Stephen Fry and expected this to be excellent. I was not disappointed. This is a great film for many reasons: the casting is spot on, the acting is superb (unsurprising, since there are so many excellent actors in it - Bill Paterson, Simon Callow, David Tennant, Emily Mortimer, Stephen Campbell Moore, Harriet Walter, Michael Sheen, to name but a few), the photography is beautiful, the screenplay dazzling, with many lines lifted directly from Vile Bodies, the Evelyn Waugh masterpiece it is based on, which is by no means a criticism - watch out for the line from James about wild animals! If you like period/wartime comedy/drama you will love this. The only small negative point is that the end is a bit of an anticlimax - but then i didnt want it to end....
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
This is a stylish, satirical and thoughtful movie about people not worth thinking too much about. We're in London in the Thirties. The wealthy, bored young spawn of the upper crust flit from party to party, keeping the dawn at bay and amusing each other with their brittleness and wit. We're in the middle of high society, "that uneasy alliance of bright young things and old survivors."
Adam Fenwick-Symes (Stephen Campbell Moore) wants to be a writer, hasn't a penny, but whose friends are all among the "things." He loves Nina Blount (Emily Mortimer), a young woman who would rather be bored and rich than bored and poor. (She finally marries a very boring, aristocratic young man, Ginger Littlejohn, who is rich. "Oh, darling," she says to Adam, "if only you were as rich as Ginger...or even half as rich.")
Throughout the movie Adam finds himself in situations where he comes close to money and loses it, whether it's gambling in a hotel which has wonderfully loose morals to working as Mr. Chatterbox, a gossip columnist for a press lord. His friends are fun and stylish, but also shallow, condescending and oblivious to any feelings except their own. "You bloody people," one person finally says to them, "Who the bloody hell do you think you are?" As the Thirties pass into the 1939 invasion of Poland and Britain's declaration war, the parties stop. Bad things happen and real life takes over. But eventually Adam and Nina find their way together, without money.
I liked this movie a lot. It has great style and dialogue, and things keep moving. It was based on Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies. The characters are superficial but after a while you get to know them. There are first-rate actors portraying these bright young things, including Michael Sheen as Miles, a wealthy young queen, and Fenella Woolgar as Agatha Runciple, a young woman without a reflective thought in her head. There are also wonderful performances by some well-known names in smaller parts: Jim Broadbent as an alcoholic colonel who shows up several times, Jim Carter as a filth-hating customs supervisor, Peter O'Toole as somewhat balmy aristocrat who isn't as eccentric as he appears, Simon Callow as the deposed king of Anatolia, and John Mills in a brief but funny bit as an old aristocrat at a party who mistakes a sniff of cocaine for a sniff of snuff.
The DVD picture and audio are first-rate.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 18 February 2011
This is a mystery to me, it really is. The adaptation of a fabulous, witty satire of an outrageous social set with a cast to die for and the direction of the wonderful Stephen Fry and yet it's so utterly boooooring, dahling! Given the glamour and outrages of the real bright young things, the on-screen party people seem rather sub-Bullingdon club rather than genuinely decadent and you find yourself yearning for Bridesheads's Anthony Blanche to appear and shake things up a bit; although Michael Sheen makes the most of his sadly limited screen time. Admittedly it is difficult to sound the right notes when you're portraying caricatures but even so most of the portrayals were simply cardboard cut-outs, especially poor David Tennant's less than one dimensional Ginger Littlejohn and Emily Mortimer who is just phenomenally irritating throughout. On the plus side, it looks great but despite the array of talent in this film including screen legend Peter O'Toole and a positive luxury of luvvies, the sets win hands down. Missed opportunity.
on 5 November 2015
Bright Young Things is a 2003 British drama written and directed by the great Stephen Fry. It is based on the 1930 novel ‘Vile Bodies’ by Evelyn Waugh and the film provides a satirical story about young and carefree London aristocrats and bohemians in the late 1920’s through to the early 1940’s.
The film has a superb cast and is on the whole a feast for the eyes. It captures the colour, dazzle and decadence of the period well. The visual richness is reminiscent of the deep colours and glitter used in the film Cabaret.
The story is set in the 1920’s, and cleverly is very relevant today as it deals with the mores of our time, the quest for celebrity, decadence and often style over substance.
The film satirises the young idle rich of the aristocracy and their vacuous lifestyles. We are introduced to a young and decadent crowd, whose lives are dedicated to endless wild parties, alcohol, cocaine and the latest gossip reported by newspaper columnists.
Among our cast is the eccentric Agatha Runcible, whose wild ways eventually lead her to being committed to a very grim mental institution, while another character, Miles is forced to flee the country to avoid prosecution for his homosexuality; and we follow their lives and the dramatic changes that occur with WWII.
This film has not been made just for the sake of the lifestyle, costumes, great houses and vintage cars. The film plunges in, capturing the hedonistic madness of the era in a swirl of colours and jolting close-ups. The film has sweetness and tenderness but it demonstrates that a life of wealth and great privilege is no panacea for happiness. It's a very dark story.
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
The multitalented and delightfully witty Stephen Fry turns his hand to directing with this glamorous debut adapted from Evelyn Waugh's "Vile Bodies". Bright Young Things is both filled with and satirising the excess and eccentricity of celebrity culture in the early 30s.
Aspiring author Adam Symes [Stephen Campbell Moore] is returning to England with the manuscript for his novel, "Bright Young Things", and has an arrangement with publisher Lord Monomark [Dan Aykroyd] that will provide him with enough money to marry Nina Blout [Emily Mortimer], also from an aristocratic family fallen on hard times. But the wedding is off after an over-zealous customs officer confiscates the "obscene" material, leaving Adam struggling to find the money to win back his girl.
Fry's cast of bright young actors show much more talented depth than the characters they portray; Cambell Moore (who interestingly bears a striking resemblance to a young Hugh Laurie) is remarkably accomplished for an actor in his first feature, while Michael Sheen is wonderfully camp and Mortimer manages to tenderly portray a rather unsympathetic character. This is all aided by the Fry's reworking of Waugh's material, for where Waugh is clearly repulsed by and vilifies his hedonistic characters, Fry seems rather endeared to them and it is to his credit that he does not simply portray them as spoilt brats, eliciting some wonderful performances from his young cast.
The love triangle is a rather flimsy plot for the film, which really wishes to indulge in a dazzling display of decadence among the upper class of the time. This sort of visual extravaganza works brilliantly in the opening "Inferno" party, but it cannot maintain this sort of intensity. As a first-time director, Fry seems so desparate not to bore his audience that at times he flies along too swiftly, flitting between scenes with little sense or rhythm, which gives the movie an episodic feel that seems almost better suited to a televised drama serial.
While this little world is wonderfully recreated with impeccable set design (most notably Adam's hotel and Nina's apartment), the film begins to suffer from being too long since the story is secondary and the characters are never really developed. Fry suddenly feels the need for the delightful frivolities to turn starkly serious in a rather jarring style (especially Agatha's descent without warning into madness), making these changes reek of script contrivance. Fry then seems to fall back on cliché sentimentality as we are expected to sympathise for characters that may have been endearing, but were always rather superficial.
Like Roger Avery's (more successful) time-shift with the Bret Easton Ellis novel Rules of Attraction, Fry has brought Waugh's novel forward from late 1920s to late 1930s. This allows him the rather heavy handed use of the war and Nazi Germany to darken the tone of events, but this was obviously not what Waugh had in mind with his writing in 1931.
This film has cerainly shown Stephen Fry's eye for depicting affluent excess with painstaking period detail, conjuring (and for the most part sustaining) an incredibly lively atmosphere as well as his skill with gentle satire, so it will be certainly interesting to see where his next directorial outing takes him. As for Bright Young Things, it is an enjoyable whirlwind ride through the delirious glamour it portrays, but much like its characters, can all too often seem devoid of any real depth or substance below the surface. But then, in a strange way, that's really sort of the point.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 8 August 2007
Like a cross between "Cabaret" and "Moulin Rouge" this film just blew me away. I'm embarassed to say that I just saw it, and see now that it was made in 2003. It makes me wonder how many other great films I've been missing. The settings and acting are first rate and I honestly can't find a flaw in this movie. The story is set in 1930s London, before the war, and we get a look at the divine decadance that was glimpsed in "Cabaret," only the plot is more thrown about and there are some fetching scenes involving Number 10 Downing Street--the funniest part of the movie--well, not for anyone living at 10 Downing Street. At any rate, the plot centers on getting the money, losing the money--required to marry a certain girl. the twists and turns this movie takes on are just mind boggling and the editing is quirky and keeps you on your toes. Honestly, I was so disappointed by "Moulin Rouge" and this is what it should have been more like. It's like a Merchant Ivory film on drugs--this is a compliment. At any rate, the story is not only entertaining, but touching and well crafted. I just can't recommend this movie enough.
on 16 February 2006
Stephen Fry, the director of this film, has many talents, not least as a comedian and wit and in my view he has made a thoroughly good job of this film. It has a sparkle and pace to it and some wonderful performances from a young and enthusiastic group of actors. (Particularly good is Fenella Woolgar as Agatha Runcible but everyone is at least good in his/her role.) All that having been said I think Stephen could have chosen a better novel to adapt for his first film as director. "Vile Bodies", the novel on which it based, is a fizzy but rather empty read and even if you adapt it very well, as he has, the best you can probably hope for is a fizzy, empty film and that's more or less what you get. No fault can be attached to the direction, acting or the set design. (The sets, by the way, are sumptuous, exquisitely designed and wholly convincing). In conclusion 5 stars for effort and visual appeal but possibly three for the overall film.