Bright Young Things
Witty, complex, and veddy, veddy British, Bright Young Things (2003) is a lot like its director. Perhaps best known on this side of the pond as a bumbling type thanks to roles in films like Gosford Park, Le Divorce, and I.Q., Stephen Fry is also a writer, a quiz show host, and a philanthropist. But until now, he's never been the one yelling "action" and "cut." For his first foray behind the camera, Fry chose to adapt Evelyn Waugh's 1930 novel Vile Bodies, a chronicle of the young, idle rich who dominated London society in the years between the two world wars, flitting from party to party in a constant search for stimulation and amusement. The story focuses on Adam (Stephen Campbell Moore), a would-be novelist who, unlike the rest of his set, is actually rather hard-up for cash which puts a kink in his plans to marry doe-eyed Nina (Emily Mortimer). But while Adam's quest for a matrimonial nest-egg may be the core plot device, Bright Young Things' real heart is its characters, a group of aimless social somebodies who yearn for something more meaningful than their superficial lives, but have no idea how to go about getting it. In addition to Nina and Adam, the core set includes earnest Simon (James McAvoy), an earl who moonlights as a newspaper gossip columnist; fun-loving Agatha (Fenella Woolgar), who never stops looking for the next party; and flamboyant Miles (Michael Sheen), whose jaunty cap and dark glasses can't protect him from real life forever. All relative newcomers, the principal cast members acquit themselves admirably, more than holding their own against the veterans sprinkled throughout the supporting cast (familiar faces include Dan Aykroyd, Stockard Channing, Jim Broadbent, Richard E. Grant, and Peter O'Toole). Despite a somewhat artificial ending, with its vivid characters and intricate plot, Bright Young Things really does seem like a novel come to life. New Line presents the film in a strong anamorphic transfer (1.78:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (a Dolby 2.0 Surround track is also available, as are English and Spanish subtitles). Extras include a commentary by Fry, a 10-minute featurette on the director, trailers, and a 30-minute behind-the-scenes film called "From the Bottom Up: The Making of Bright Young Things." Made by Shane Davey, a gopher who worked on the production, "From the Bottom Up" offers a fresh perspective on the filmmaking process and is a nice change from the typical fluffy "making-of" featurette. Keep-case.