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With: Stephen Campbell Moore, Emily Mortimer, Fenella Woolgar, James
Written by: Stephen Fry, based on a novel by Evelyn Waugh
Directed by: Stephen Fry
MPAA Rating: 105 minutes
Running Time: -99
Date: 05/16/2003
IMDB

Bright Young Things (2004)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

A 'Bright' Delight

By Rob Blackwelder, SPLICEDwire

Bright Young Things is a terribly witty romp through 1930s pre-war London with a pack of idle young swells who live scrumptious but superficial lives of joyous gossip-page decadence and complacent scandal that has the potential to ruin them.

Very cleverly adapted (from Evelyn Waugh's novel "Vile Bodies") and directed by the gifted comedic actor Stephen Fry (Wilde, Peter's Friends), our surrogate in this world is Adam Symes (newcomer Stephen Campbell Moore), a well-connected but flat broke novelist and fringe member of this society who is railroaded into writing an anonymous gossip column about his pals -- although he's soon inventing entirely fictional members of the circle just to keep his readers amused.

An ironic failure at schemes to get rich quick so he can ask the "frantically bored" and beautiful but secretly vulnerable and melancholy Nina (subtly heartbreaking and simply wonderful Emily Mortimer) to marry him, Adam's fortunes -- which practically fluctuate with the tides -- are just one source of endless humor. But director Fry furtively hints at shades of compunction and misfortune under the film's carefree surface that bubble up as world events encroach on these lives of leisure, eventually taking the film to an unexpected level of empathy, nuance and humanity.

Wickedly smart and perfectly peppered with apropos period music, Bright Young Things is also brilliant enough to be blessed with an array of Britain's finest comedic actors giving their all.

Moore, a dead ringer for Stephen Fry's old comedy partner Hugh Laurie, is the ideal nervously charming English everyman. Jim Broadbent plays a drunkard retired colonel who helps Adam make a bucket of money -- then disappears. Peter O'Toole is Nina's batty father, an eccentric hermit in a cluttered country manor. Simon Callow is a weirdo deposed king staying in Adam's hotel. Bill Paterson and Imelda Staunton are the prime minister and his wife, innocently caught in our gang's scandal crossfire. Richard E. Grant is a self-righteous bishop. And Americans Stockard Channing and Dan Aykroyd play a flashy fad evangelist and the pompous publisher of the scandal sheet in which Adam's column appears.

If a movie can draw this kind of talent for mostly miniscule roles, how can you go wrong?

DVD Details: This wry and sprightly film plays very well on the small screen.New Line's DVD comes with a surprisingly tame Fry commentary track, and two featurettes: "Stephen Fry: Director" and "From the Bottom Up: The Making of Bright Young Things." (JMA)