Bright Young Things

on August 20, 2004 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
Right from its highly dramatic opening, with the catchy swing song "Sing, Sing, Sing" overlaying a lavish party in 1930s London, it's evident that comic genius/actor Stephen Fry ("Jeeves and Wooster") is also a born filmmaker. "Bright Young Things," based on the novel "Vile Bodies" by Evelyn Waugh, is a fast-moving, smart and very funny satirical look at the last days of England's young upper crust. Nicknamed by the tabloid press the Bright Young Things, their empty-headed lives of drugs, drinking and partying will end with the imminent outbreak of the Second World War. The moral center of the film is Adam Symes (Stephen Campbell Moore), a screenwriter whose first work has just been confiscated by a puritanical British customs officer. The problem is that he owes the script to a bombastic Fleet Street newspaper mogul (Dan Aykroyd) and the setback of losing it jeopardizes his plans to marry the beautiful Nina (Emily Mortimer). Meanwhile, his circle of friends blithely party on, oblivious to the ugly realities just outside their door.

"Bright Young Things" is a gorgeous-looking film with a highly attractive cast--newcomer Fenella Woolgar almost steals the movie as the eccentric flapper Agatha--and some still relevant and trenchant commentary on politics, the press (the leading tabloid is called The Daily Excess), sexuality and Britain's social divide. Only a distinct lack of ambition on Fry's part (the world depicted in "Bright Young Things" is not exactly an unfamiliar one in British cinema) undercuts the film and renders it somewhat superficial. But if Fry aims low in testing the cinematic waters as a director, in all other respects he hits the bull's-eye. "Bright Young Things" is a grand entertainment. Starring Stephen Campbell Moore, Emily Mortimer, Jim Broadbent and Peter O'Toole. Directed and written by Stephen Fry. Produced by Gina Carter and Miranda Davis. A Thinkfilm release. Comedy/Drama. Rated R for some drug use. Running time: 105 min

Tags: Stephen Campbell Moore, Emily Mortimer, Jim Broadbent, Peter O'Toole, Stephen Fry, Fenella Woolgar, politics, sexuality, UK, tabloid, upper-class, adaptation, satire, Dan Aykroyd, business, newspaper, journalist

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