Bright Young Things

First things first:  Evelyn Waugh was a man (yes, there are people who do not know).  Waugh (1903-1966) was the author of Vile Bodies (1930), upon which Bright Young Things is based.  In today's society, the themes that Waugh satirized nearly seventy-five years ago still ring true, maybe more than ever.  Vile Bodies was a scathing look at the emptiness of celebrity, and the futility of the pursuit of fame and other unnecessary things.  People can find echoes today in the tabloid magazines or television shows that track every minute detail of the lives of celebrities or pseudo celebrities.  Adapter/director Stephen Fry manages to keep the wicked humor used by Waugh and crafts a funny yet poignant film tracking the life of one of these vile bodies as he begins to grow up and realize that the world offers more than an endless stream of parties.

Adam Symes (Stephen Campbell Moore) is returning from America with his completed novel Bright Young Things, an expose on the lives of the rich.  Unfortunately, it gets confiscated in customs, leaving him with no cash flow.  He owes his hotel money, and needs money to spend time with his girlfriend Nina Blount (Emily Mortimer, Young Adam, A Foreign Affair).  Nina and Adam hang out with a group of the idle rich that includes Miles (Michael Sheen, Timeline, Underworld) and Agatha (Fenella Woolgar, AKA), and their lives consist of little more than going from party to party. And the public loves it.  Lord Monomark's (Dan Akroyd, 50 First Dates, Crossroads) paper pays "Chatterbox," an insider, to get the scoop on these partiers, and they are the constant subject of the paparazzi.  Adam owes Monomark a book, so in the meantime, he agrees to work for Monomark, and eventually assumes the role of Chatterbox.

Adam and Nina are an item, and they are always saying how they will marry each other once Adam has enough money.  There is an especially hilarious sequence when Adam goes to Nina's father (Peter O'Toole, Troy, The Final Curtain) to ask for money, and he seems senile and deranged.  O'Toole looks like he's having a blast, and it really shows in his performance.  Fry assembled a great cast of actors, who basically act like they're having an extended party.  Jim Broadbent (Vanity Fair, Around the World in 80 Days) is also great as a drunk major that Adam is trying to track down.  Most of the cast is new to movies but has a lot of experience on stage, and it shows.  They act larger than life, like these characters should act.  Woolgar is the zaniest of the bunch, with Moore's presence serving to act like a sanity check.  The first part of Bright Young Things is little more than extended lunacy as this wacky group goes from party to party.

Things really get bad for Adam once Nina runs off with Ginger Littlejohn (David Tennant, Sweetnightgoodheart, One Eyed Jacques), a childhood friend, primarily because he has money.  She has little affection for him and a great amount for Adam, but Adam cannot provide the lifestyle she desires.  This is the turning point in the film, when the humor begins to turn more poignant.  Bright Young Things shifts its mood, and Adam can now see how empty his life was.  Fry successfully handles this transition, and this is what makes Bright Young Things work.  Both the before and after need to be plausible in order for viewers to both relate and feel sympathetic towards Adam.  A super saccharine ending is a bit much, but the rest works well. 

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 45 minutes, Rated R for some drug use.

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