November 8, 2004

Bright Young Things

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If it wasn’t for director, screenwriter and executive producer Stephen Fry, Bright Young Things would be this month’s Hallmark movie airing on CBS. Instead, this first-time director, I emphasize first-time, took the nursing home plot — boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back — all set against the backdrop of pre-World War II 1930s, and turns it into a success though great camera work, an exciting screenplay and great acting talent. The entire film is based on the English novel, Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh, which chronicles the rise and fall of Britain’s elite partying class in between the world wars. The theme is pretty familiar; the children of the “Old Rich” use their seemingly unending bankrolls to party to the limit. However, you can only party so hard for so long. One of the biggest partiers in the film, Agatha Runcible (Fenella Woolgar) describes the situation as: “It was like we were each in racecars going around and around and were never able to stop.”

The audience’s guide through this funhouse of a movie is Adam Symes, played by newcomer Stephen Campbell Moore. Adam returns from France having written a novel sharing the title of the film only to have his manuscript taken away by customs due to its “pornographic” nature. Adam must then report to newspaper publisher Lord Monomark (Dan Aykroyd) who is the Rupert Murdoch of the 1930s and try to explain why he has spent all of his money and produced no book. To compensate Lord Monomark, Adam takes the job of Mr. Chatterbox, an anonymous reporter on the “inside” of high society, who provides the information for Monomark’s society and scandal pages. All of this occurs while Adam is trying to convince his on-and-off sweetheart Nina Blount (Emily Mortimer) to marry him. While Nina loves Adam, she also loves her lifestyle. Adam is thus sent on a quest to find money fast.

Most of the credit has to go to Fry’s abilities as a filmmaker. Adam and Nina’s tumultuous romance is set against numerous tangential subplots, which, like a good episode of Seinfeld seem rather insignificant at first, but somehow manage to converge later on in the movie. Some of these parallel plots are incredibly hilarious. In one, Adam gives a drunken major (Jim Broadbent)