3 October 2003 | azeemak
A pretty good first stab
Stephen Fry is such a prodigious polymath that it's no surprise what a good fist he's made of his directorial debut. That's not to say it's wholly successful; the characters are so shallow that it is hard to warm to them, although it should be pointed out that this is not necessarily a fault. Indeed, it's refreshing these days to find a film in which characters are not trying to ingratiate themselves. Emily Mortimer is exempt from this observation in any case, as she's just so adorable - and is it just me or does she look a dead spit for the young Mary Steenburgen?
I found not only the camerawork but the lighting extremely gaudy, sometimes offputtingly so. However, Fry is admirably adventurous in some of his camera sweeps, not playing it safe as some inexperienced directors do.
As to the performances, it is true that Simon Callow hams it up quite outrageously (although he still wrung a couple of chuckles out of me), and I found Michael Sheen's uber-camp queen rather wearing, until his scene at the end which I thought he handled well. I know I'm not the first person to say this, but it bears repetition: Fenella Woolgar is a revelation in this film, conveying the insouciance of the upper class effortlessly (and the scene after the "orgy" with the stern family is priceless). James McEvoy was excellent too.
Oh, and by the way, to whomever described Evelyn Waugh as "herself one of the beauties of the age" - you may have been joking, but in case not, Evelyn Waugh was in fact a curmudgeonly man who would no doubt have snorted to hear himself thus described!