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on 20 June 2012
In a number of ways this is not a bad adaptation; necessarily condensed, beautifully shot and carefully produced. Most of Waugh's key themes about faith, class and the transient nature of love are preserved, but adapter Andrew Davies takes too many liberties with the main characters resulting in a compromised and de-valued piece of work.

Mathew Goode is a solid Charles Ryder, but this version makes him a much more ambiguous character than the star-struck observer we are familiar with from the book and famous television production of 1981. Waugh's Charles is dazzled by Sebastian, his family and by Brideshead itself in a rather pure, selfless way, except possibly towards the very end of the book when age and cynicism are getting the better of him. In Julian Jarrold's film however, its hinted pretty early on that his motivations may be murky - does he tolerate and manipulate Sebastian and Julia simply to gain a proprietorial foothold over Brideshead itself? This is kept enigmatic, but it nevertheless seems like an unnecessary cheapening of Charles' character.

The relationship between Charles, Sebastian and Julia is also misconceived, fashioned as a romantic triangle with Sebastian's rejection by Charles given as the prime reason behind his descent into depression and alcoholism. This departs significantly from the book, where Charles and Julia do not get romantically involved until many years after his rejection by Sebastian.

All of this particularly compromises the character of Sebastian himself. In the book and the TV series he is a dazzlingly beautiful, glamorous and charismatic sprite who Charles never fails to be captivated by, and his decline is more one of spirit and the burdens of his family than of something as feeble as a romantic slight. In this film, and as played by the small, slight and mousy Ben Wishaw, Sebastian is reduced to little more than a feeble, needy hanger-on, stripped of the wilful self-containment that gives him his dignity. This badly imbalances the film and robs it of one of its most important allegories - the inevitable decline yet continuing attraction of a particular social class in the inter-war years.
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on 24 March 2010
This is not an adaptation of the novel of the same name. It is, rather, a truncation and, in plain speech, a mutilation of said novel. Like so many, I have fond memories of the TV series from the eighties. That was a faithful rendering of Waugh's book; made all the more remarkable by virtue of the fact that the adaptor of the novel for the small screen was John Mortimer, an avowed atheist.

Mortimer could not share or even sympathise with Waugh's religious convictions. Nonetheless, appreciating that Waugh's faith was woven into every strand of the novel, he was most diligent in ensuring that it was also seen to be at the very heart of the story of the TV series. This filmed version, in contrast, is a very loose adaptation of the novel. The plot has been drastically - I might say surgically- altered by the scriptwriter. Whilst I appreciate that it is not possible to squeeze the plot of a complete novel into a two hour film the changes that have been made here are drastic and destructive.

I came to this film expecting to find an accurate, albeit condensed, version of the story of the novel. If only I had been right! The love affair between Charles and Sebastian is cut out completely; Julia is written in to scene after scene in which her character is completely absent in the novel and Waugh's religious message is turned completely on its head. Waugh, to put it simply, saw God as the good guy. The scriptwriter of the film sees God as the bad guy- the true villain of the piece.

This is a perfectly legitimate point of view to hold but if he wished to convey this why did he not I wonder adapt another novel that held to that notion? Why ruin this one? Sterling performances by the cast and a beautiful background for filming (Castle Howard - the same great house that was used as Brideshead in the TV series) cannot redeem this film. I wish I could award it no stars at all or five stars in the negative. Do not buy - or even rent- this film.
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on 22 April 2010
Like many of the reviews I have read on this film, I would give this no, or even negative stars, if I could. Its an absolute atrocity; a butchering of the book that turns the story into a Hollywood-ized movie that is infuriatingly crude and obvious. The writer of this film, not the actors, is the culprit: he has not only changed the events of the plot, but has written a screenplay that actually brings out the wrong message of the story. For example, Julia spends far too much time with Charles and Sebastien and she even accompanies them to Venice: anyone who has read the book would realise how completely inappropriate this is. There are several other instances of this but i would have to write an essay to explain them all.
Basically, dont waste time and money on this rubbish: watch the brilliant granada series - a dazzling, masterful adaption of the book.
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on 13 August 2010
I approached this film from the perspective, and possibly the prejudice, of someone who knew the original book and also adored the superb and faithful Granada TV epic series. Consequently, I was extremely disappointed by the gross inaccuracies in the plot, and also the overly "Hollywood" take on the characters. I was half expecting to find out that `The Comic Strip' had produced this film as a spoof.
As soon as Julia went on the trip with Charles and Sebastian to Italy, as was never written by Evelyn Waugh, I completely lost faith in this effort. Such a blatant departure from the book also undermines, and underplays the transient homosexual relationship between the two main male progenitors, and ruins the whole premise. Yes, Charles' transfer of affection from Sebastian to Julia is the plot's lynchpin, but it is hurried here, and loses all subtlety.
On the positive side, Emma Thompson is fabulous, and she is perhaps the only actor to actually `get' the feel of the plot. Michael Gambon is good too, but blink and you miss him. All in all, if you approach this film never having seen or read anything about the story before, then there maybe something here for you. Otherwise, go and buy the Granada box set instead!
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on 14 April 2010
This was Director Charles Sturridge's recent comment about the unique process enjoyed by the production team at Granada and the actors and technicians involved in the 1981 mini series. A special moment occurred where creativity was allowed to flourish and a 2 year process culminated in a piece of television history.

When the Producer Derek Granger also added, 'those days are gone', he wasn't referring to Waugh's landscape and characters but the art of film making.

The 2008 production could never conjure up the alchemy of 1981. And it has since been proved that high production values, which drown this film, do not equal art. In 1981 a one-off was created. Something unrepeatable.

If the mini series told us anything, it was that this novel needed to be adapted in full, with Waugh's voice at the forefront ....and that would take time. The investment Granada made in the attention to detail paid off. Audiences were prepared to watch a 13 hour story evolve.

My hope is that viewers of this film, new to Waugh and Brideshead, will get a flavour of this great story and with any luck seek out the 13 hour experience - which still shimmers unrivaled after 30 years - in another league.
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on 27 July 2012
The problem with the film is that it totally antithetical to the novel - in fact to call this film Brideshead Revisited is a travesty. Brideshead Revisited is about the search for "truth" and "meaning" which, ultimately, for Waugh, can only be found in the Roman Catholic Church (a position I personally do not agree with but that does not affect my appreciation of the novel or the brilliant TV series). Waugh is intelligent enough to know that this is not without its personal cost. The film overturns the basic premise of the novel, and it is fundamentally anti-Catholic.

It is often necessary to change incidents, characters etc in converting a book to film and this does not worry me. The problem with this film is that it rips the heart out of the book and leaves us with nothing.
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on 13 September 2010
Like all the reviews of this awful film I agree don't waste your money on this. Buy the simply excellent box-set of the Granada series. The makers of this film deserve to be banned from film making for ever as it has no resemblance to the book or the story save the name in the title. No wonder it bombed at the box office. Leave well alone.
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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 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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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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