Bright Young Things (2003)
Bright Young Vile Bodies
Oh, dear. Have I been sold again? - Nina Blount
I just don't know, I just don't know how I feel about Stephen Fry's "Bright Young Things". Not because it is something different or a great artsy movie or that it spoke to me on some deeper level or that it is utter tosh but because having sat through what is basically 106 minutes of decadence in a bygone era it left me unmoved by what I watched. Oh Stephen Fry's direction is for the most good, his adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's "Vile Bodies" is solid and so are the performances but I felt so detached from this tale of celebrity status that it left me unmoved and maybe a little disappointed. Maybe I was expecting something more, something almost seedy and salacious but "Bright Young Things" just didn't deliver it.
Returning from France with the manuscript for his novel in hand, young writer Adam Symes (Stephen Campbell Moore - A Good Woman) is distressed when it is confiscated by customs for being filth. Now with an irritated boss wanting something for his £100 advance, a socialite girlfriend Nina (Emily Mortimer - The Kid) who wants to wed and a group of friends whose life is ruled by debauche decadence Adam has no choice but to report on the outrageous activities of his friends as they party, party, party with no care for the consequences of their wayward ways.
Despite being written in the 1930's Evelyn Waugh's tale of decadent youth who regularly feature in the papers is surprisingly current. You just have to look through the daily paper's to read some sort of gossip about a socialite at a party often doing something they shouldn't. And so what we have in "Bright Young Things" is a tale of young people in the 1930's who live life in a daze of decadence and end up as newspaper stories. All of which is told from the viewpoint of Adam who finds himself not so much an observer in this crazy world but a passive participant.
The thing is that whilst being a period drama which has a current storyline it's all a bit crazy. Maybe "Vile Bodies" was written in a similar matter, but "Bright Young Things" comes across as a very choppy, episodic movie which veers towards almost the surreal at times. When we watch Agatha driving of in a racing car it is crazy and surreal and frankly slightly wrong. Maybe that was the intention, maybe Fry delivers "Bright Young Things" as Waugh wrote it but it not only feels a little too strange but also leaves you feeling detached.
Part of that detachment could be from the fact that most of the characters are more caricatures who we don't get too fully know. So whilst watching Michael Sheen as the flamboyant Miles is funny when his world gets turned up side down, as is the case with many of the characters, you don't feel anything for him despite Sheen's clever emotional performance. It's the same with David Tennant as Ginger Littlejohn and James McAvoy as Simon Balcairn because whilst they both give good performances you have no attachment to their polarised characters. And I could go on because "Bright Young Things" features an impressive cast which includes Dan Aykroyd, Jim Broadbent, Stockard Channing, Jim Carter, Emily Mortimer, Peter O'Toole as well as John Mills among many other recognizable names and faces but that's all they are because their characters are 2 dimensional.
Amusingly the only character which doesn't feel like a 2 dimensional caricature is that of Adam Fenwick-Symes played by Stephen Campbell Moore. I say amusingly as "Bright Young Things" was Stephen Campbell Moore's first movie yet he delivers a performance of a veteran, finding the heart beat of his character despite it being on the side of surreal.
What this all boils down to is that "Bright Young Things" is one of those movies which may speak to some but fails to speak to others and unfortunately it fail to spoke to me. There is no doubt that despite being a story about decadent youth in the 1930's it touches on current ideas but being almost surreal and choppy it ends up an almost crazy movie which left me feeling nothing, left me not having enjoyed it but not having hated it.
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