Emily Mortimer as Nina Blount
Stephen Campbell Moore as Adam Fenwick-Symes
James McAvoy as Simon Balcairn
Michael Sheen as Miles
David Tennant as Ginger Littlejohn
Fenella Woolgar as Agatha
Dan Aykroyd as Lord Monomark
Jim Broadbent as Drunk Major
Simon Callow as King of Anatolia
Jim Carter as Chief Customs Officer
Stockard Channing as Mrs. Melrose Ape
Richard E. Grant as Father Rothschild
Julia McKenzie as Lottie Crump
John Mills as Man Taking Cocaine at Party
Bill Paterson as Sir James Brown
Stephen Fry: Director
From the Bottom Up: The Making of Bright Young Things
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Running Time: 105 Minutes
This film was originally released in 2003 and is based on Evelyn Waugh’s novel “Vile Bodies” which was written in the 1930’s. The following is the official description of the film:
“Set in the 1930’s, the film centers around a social set known to the press who follow their every move as the “Bright Young Things.” Adam (Stephen Campbell Moore, A Good Woman) and his friends are eccentric, wild and entirely shocking to the older generation. Amidst the madness, Adam, who is well connected but totally broke, is desperately trying to get enough money to marry the beautiful Nina (Mortimer). While his attempts to raise cash are constantly thwarted, their friends seem to self-destruct, one-by-one, in an endless search for newer and faster sensations. Finally, when world events out of their control come crashing around them, they are forced to reassess their lives and what they value most.”
Bright Young Things is rated R for some drug use.
Bright Young Things is the directorial debut of Stephen Fry. I didn’t realize it when I first watched the film, but he’s a well known British actor and writer. Seeing as how this is his first film, it’s quite an achievement. It’s a great looking period piece, it has an excellent cast of relative unknowns, and he deals with a relatively large cast of characters that all come alive in the story. Unfortunately, the subject matter is a little hard to get into.
The biggest problem with Bright Young Things is that it’s hard to identify with the characters. There’s only so much sympathy you can have for the partying, hard living, rich young socialites of 1930’s Britain. They’re immature, irresponsible, and generally very shallow. Because of this, it’s hard to laugh with them during the good times, cry with them during the bad times, and feel sorry for them when reality strikes. I realize that the story of these British socialites is meant to be compared to the obsession with wealth, celebrity, and gossip about today’s celebrities, but that doesn’t make the characters any more sympathetic than, say, Paris Hilton or Britany Spears.
The other problem with Bright Young Things is that it varies widely in tone. The first half of the movie is very carefree and lighthearted. Towards the end it turns into a bit of a dark drama that doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the story. This switch causes it to never fully realize its potential as a comedy or a drama.
There were a few redeeming moments in Bright Young Things, but they were rather short lived. At one point our hero Fenwick-Symes finds himself writing a gossip column for a London newspaper. Stuck between having to do his job and not wanting to offend his socialite friends, he starts making up gossip about non-existent celebrities. This situation has a lot of comedy potential that is only partially realized. Another amusing situation finds one of the rich socialite women inadvertently acting as a backup driver for a racecar driver. She finds herself immediately thrown into a race with amusing results. There are also funny cameos by Peter O’Toole, Dan Aykroyd, Jim Broadbent, and Stockard Channing.
As previously mentioned, the film has a good cast of unknowns. The costumes and sets are also spectacular as they serve as a great backdrop for the swinging social scene of the 1930’s. The music is pretty good as well.
Who should see Bright Young Things? Anybody that’s a fan of Evelyn Waugh’s book or a fan of Stephen Fry. If you like period comedies you’ll probably want to give this a chance as well.
There are a few bonus features included on this DVD:
Director’s Commentary Stephen Fry delivers a fairly interesting commentary. He spends an equal amount of time discussing the technical aspects of making the film as well as the artistic aspects. Fry tells anecdotes from the set, tricks behind some of the shots, and other bits of trivia.
Stephen Fry: Director This is a little bit of a “making of” video and a little bit of a tribute to the director. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of footage from the film included here which seems redundant if you just watched the movie, but they still spend plenty of time showing behind the scenes footage and interviews with the cast and crew.
From the Bottom Up: The Making of Bright Young Things This is the highlight of the bonus features. A production runner for the film shot footage behind the scenes of the making of this movie. He interviews everyone from the set dressers to the costumers. When it is all put together, it’s a real “in the trenches” look at the making of the movie. Rarely are “making of” featurettes this intimate. He’s able to get the cast and crew to open up for him and he gets great footage of them talking about the movie. Overall it’s a unique and interesting look at the making of Bright Young Things.
The Bottom Line:
Bright Young Things is only for those that like period piece dramedies. If you don’t mind watching the angst of wealthy British 1930’s socialites, then you’ll probably enjoy this film.