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3.2 out of 5 stars83
3.2 out of 5 stars
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on 8 April 2013
The Wisdom of the Crowd has got this one right: this is a disastrous 'adaptation' of Waugh's novel that manages to desecrate both the novel and the Granada series. This is, in fact, an "adaptation" in the sense in which a lunatic attacking the Mona Lisa with a can of spray paint can claim to be adapting the painting, not defacing it. To solve the problem of compressing the narrative, the script writers create a love triangle where Charles Ryder is involved with both Sebastian and Julia in Venice. That saves time while making a complete nonsense of the novel; Ryder is now the "bad guy", the cynical arriviste who is responsible for Sebastian's alcoholism and seems to end up with Julia because he wants to steal the house, Brideshead. This make no sense at all as an "adaptation" of anything; as an original story it is cliched, contains some authentically bad writing ("Is this fate?") and refracts the whole narrative through Andrew Davies's resolutely lowbrow sensibility. No one in this story is charming or even particularly likeable: the result is dull, dull, dull. The actors involved do not seem able to capture the charm as well as the authority of the Flyte family; Hayley Atwell seems completely out of her depth as Julia Flyte. Emma Thompson also deserves mention for alternately playing Lady Marchmain as the Head of an Oxbridge College in some scenes and as Caligula in others. Ben Whishaw and Felicity Jones emerge with their reputations intact, doing the best they can with the lousy script. If possible, avoid, and enjoy one of the high points of British TV drama in the original Granada series. Better eleven hours of entertainment than two hours of utter tedium.
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on 10 March 2011
This film is very literally a travesty, bearing absolutely no resemblence to Waugh's masterpiece in plot, emphasis, motive or tone; it's simply a different story, with the timespan telescoped and the characters compressed beyond recognition. Everything luxurious and excessive in the book has been simplified (or simply erased) in the interests of making it fit the required cinema run-time. This is Brideshead Lite, Reader's Digest style.

Remembering that, but putting it to one side, I actually quite enjoyed this film. It's nicely photographed in great locations, there are good performances from most of the cast (special mention for Emma Thompson) and it's moderately involving as a thwarted love story between Julia and Charles. Take it from one brimming with Catholic guilt, this is neither sacred nor particularly profane, but it's a pleasant enough way to spend a wet Sunday in February. After Church going, naturally. So watch it, even enjoy it, just don't ever call it Brideshead.
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on 5 April 2011
I wanted so much to like this adaptation, having been a huge fan of the book and the original Granada TV adaptation from 1981, but sadly that is impossible with this film. Many other reviews on these pages have used the word travesty. The book is simply too detailed and it's time-span of two decades too long to condense into a mere two hour movie. And Waugh's rich language, such a pleasure of reading the book, has been almost completely pruned away to save time. Poor Sebastien Flyte hurtles from a champagne-guzzling young man enjoying his summer vacation from Oxford to a hardened alcoholic swigging from a hip flask in public in the blink of an eye. Later, events tumble on top of one another so you are left with the feeling that they are occuring all in the same week - Charles and Julia arriving back from their adulterous sea voyage, Rex agreeing to a divorce from Julia for the price of a couple of paintings and then Lord Marchmain arriving to die in his place of birth at the very moment that Charles and Julia are set to leave Brideshead! But worse, Charles Ryder is made out to be a social-climber who sets out to ingratiate himself with the smart set and to become master of Brideshead by marrying Julia. What nonsense! Charles' inherent weakness and his tragedy, as foretold by Anthony Blanche, was to be seduced by the charm of the Brideshead set. This gradually saps all ambition and creativity out of him, so that he falls quite happily into the life-style of the place as if born to it, and almost becomes it's master, only to have it all taken from him in the end when Julia insists she can't marry him following her father's death and reconcilliation with the Catholic Church. Performances are good all round, especially Emma Thompson as a splendid and manipulatively icy Lady Marchmain, but too often there is little time on screen to bring a character to life, so short-cuts are taken, often at the expense of the character that Waugh wrote. We see so very little of Charles' boring wife Celia that we get no opportunity to understand their relationship at all, which was one of the pleasures of the Granada TV production starring Jeremy Irons. Rex Mottrom appears in this production to be an odious American, happy to barter his wife for a couple of paintings, rather than the cheerily good-natured Canadian wheeler-dealer who had no concept of the importance of catholicism to the family he was trying to marry into. I would encourage you to watch the Granada TV adaptation instead, or if that's too long, to read the book or listen to Jeremy Irons' audiobook to enjoy the full beauty of Waugh's prose.
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on 30 May 2009
This film is such a disappointment!!!!! We were willing to overlook the films overwhelming discrepancies from the novel, but we were shocked as an initial involvement, even to a negative degree, paled into an indifferent boredom. Not only were the characters cliched and undeveloped, but the films attempts to enhance dramatic atmosphere resulted in a melodramatic shade of grey which dominated the entire set. We were- ashamedly- wiling Lord Marchmain- a character we were deeply fond of- to die, just so the film would finally end. We've still not got over the overwhelming boredom!
Even if you're planning on watching it just to mock it, don't. It's so bad you can't. It's such a let down.
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VINE VOICEon 5 March 2011
An excercise in pointlessness. An inferior remake of the TV serial, terribly paced and savagely hollywoodised screenplay. I could eat a roll of film & excrete a better film. Truly awful.
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on 12 January 2011
Despairing that I had to give this even one star...

I watched this film full of expectations with a friend of mine who had never read the book. She found it confused and odd as she had no idea of the origional plot. Film adaptions should not copy a book exactly-the relationship between Sebastian and Charles could never be perfectly understood in film. If this was why the film confused my friend I could have forgiven it. However, the scriptwriter and director seem to have interpreted the text in a completely different manner to how I did or anyone else I know who has read it. The text was bastardised into what they wanted it to be- A love story between Julia and Charles were a jealous Sebastian gets in the way.

I also found the love scene too much. The beauty of a love story is the secrecy of what goes on behind closed doors, and that is what Waugh created so spendidly in his book. Everything is out in the open in this film. In this horror of a film, Charles and Sebastian's relationship is destroyed by a clumsy kiss which I found uncomfortable to watch as well as being completely unrealistic as I felt no believable chemistry between the two.

I'm now off for a hot whiskey with honey...my throat is killing me from shouting at the t.v. for two hours! Any fans of Waugh thinking of watching this, DO NOT!! Unless of course your looking for an excuse vent some anger with a good yell at the t.v.....
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on 10 March 2009
Caught this on a long plane trip to Australia - and it doesn't even belong as an airplane movie. It's dreadful. I was prepared that it could never match the beautifully produced Granada TV series from the early 80s, but never expected anything as facile as this. The only half decent thing is the narration which the director has tried to keep as close to a Jeremy Irons soundalike as possible. Ben Wishaw's Sebastian is portrayed as some flimsy, wimpish 'nothing'; there is none of the anger and conflict that comes at you through the book. Nothing of the subtlety of the TV series survives. I wasted 90 minutes of my life watching this in the vain hope that it might get better or that I might fall asleep. Even Emma Thompson can't save this from sinking further.

Forget this and go for the Granada original.
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on 10 April 2009
Wow: this is bad.
This isn't to say that there aren't good things in it: the performances of Ben Whishawe, Emma Thompson and Michael Gambon are all excellent, but almost everything else is lousy.
The script is dreadful, absolutely dreadful: there is no tension in it, no understanding of the structure or the themes of the book - and as a result, what we get is a very shallow, snobbish piece of work. There is a very simplistic reading introduced (that the middle class Charles wants possession of the great house at any price) in the absence of an ability to engage with what Waugh described as the theme of the book: the operation of grace on a diverse group of people.
Finally: and very surprisingly the attention to detail in the styling of costume and sets is really poor - notably the fact that all the Catholic women (who would have worn crucifixes) are all seen wearing crosses. It's not a truly unsettling detail, perhaps, but it is representative of the fact that the film-makers didn't really understand what they were grappling with.
The Granada adaptation really is magnificent - and a far better way to spend your money than on this rubbish.
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on 19 June 2014
The story has been radically altered from that in the book. Terrible! Nothing beats the TV series from 1981. Only loved the views of Castle Howard.
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on 23 August 2010
This remake is terribly stiff, strange and unnecessary, since a wonderful adaptation for television was already made and still is available on DVD. I recommend everyone to buy that one, not this poor remake.
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