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:: Bright Young Things

Actor Stephen Fry begins his foray into directing with Bright Young Things. An adaptation from Evelyn Waugh’s novel Vile Bodies, about the rise and fall of young, high society in pre-World war II England.

Bright Young Things follows the young and promising writer Adam who in a unfortunate mishap at customs has his cash cow novel confiscated. With his dilemma in place and no money to marry his society sweetheart Nina, Adam must find a job or money, preferably both. Amidst his plans for everlasting happiness with his only true love, Adam and Nina float in and out of England’s wildest celebrity parties, often taking part in the latest scandal.

Disillusioned that he is not rich enough for his beautiful Nina, Adam places a bet on a horse and invests what little money he has with a drunken major at his hotel bar one night, figuring he has nothing else left to lose. Being a regular on the party circuit Adam’s gung-ho boss Lord Monomark (Dan Aykroyd) offers him the job of Mr. Chatterbox, celebrity gossip columnist.

Torn between exposing his friends or receiving regular income, Adam and Nina concoct a plan to create false princes and princesses and scandals to keep the readers reading regardless of what’s really going on. They even bring green bowler hats back into the fashion circles. As a one last desperate attempt to marry Nina, Adam enlists the help of her father who happily writes out a cheque although the couple later discovers that her father is insane signing the cheque as Charlie Chaplin. Null and void.

The party era comes to a head when Mr. Chatterbox is exposed and fired and Nina runs offs and marries a rich ex-school colleague, Ginger. The couples’ inner circle of fabulous friends, end up in a psychiatric hospital and running from the police, just as the country prepares itself for war. In a weak moment Adam sells Nina to Ginger for the amount owing on his hotel bill. Adam and Nina spend one last night together, as their futures and world is about to change forever.

This sharp and witty script adapted by Fry has a definite sense of ‘dramedy’ about it, as it constantly shifts modes between the two. Fry seems to dedicate more time and care with the funnier sequences in the film displaying a great ability for directing comedy especially given his extensive experience in acting and writing television comedy. It seems as if the film is trying hard to search for more depth and unfortunately falls short off the mark especially in its Hollywood conclusion.

The cast is outstanding especially Adam’s inner circle of friends, Agatha (Fenella Woolgar), Miles (Michael Sheen), Simon (James McAvoy), Nina (Emily Mortimer) and Adam himself played by Stephen Campbell Moore who all handle their characters quite nicely, especially Woolgar as Agatha displaying a strong comedic ability. Numerous cameos by Britain’s finest and usual suspects, Richard E. Grant, Jim Broadbent, Peter O’Toole and fellow Americans Stockard Channing and Dan Aykroyd all make up this fine cast.

Although the tale is a familiar one it is well worth a look in.