25 July 2005 | drednm
Fenella Woolgar Steals the Film
Actor Stephen Fry makes an impressive splash as a director with Bright Young Things, based on the Evelyn Waugh novel, Vile Bodies. The story centers on some struggling "bright young things" during the years before England entered World War II. Adam (Stephen Campbell Moore) and Nina (Emily Mortimer) play sometime-engaged young things at the center of a disparate group of eccentrics. They seem addicted to the London "social whirl" as well as cocaine. He's a struggling writer, and she needs a rich husband. He gets roped into taking a job as a gossip columnist because the former writer (James McAvoy) commits suicide and because his manuscript is confiscated when he enters Scotland. So the young things go to every party and write up tons of scandalous gossip for the rag, keep getting drunk and stoned, and keep pursuing money. Typical acid commentary from Waugh, and Fry does a good job balancing all the characters and sub-plots. Impressive cast as well with Peter O'Toole (very funny), Dan Aykroyd, Stockard Channing (hilariously named Mrs. Melrose Ape), Harriet Walter, Imelda Staunton, Simon Callow, Jim Broadbent, Julia McKemzie, John Mills, Jim Carter, Angela Thorne, Bill Paterson, Richard E. Grant, and Margaret Tyzack recognizable. Fry appears as a chauffeur.
Moore and Mortimer are solid as young things, but Fenella Woolgar as Agatha is the standout. She's awesome in the part of the drugged out socialite who ends up in an asylum. Woolgar has several memorable scenes and droops about being "smashingly bored." Her race car scene is a scream. David Tennant is the repulsive Ginger, Michael Sheen is the queeny Miles, Lisa Dillon is the social wannabe, and Alec Newman is the very odd race driver.
Only real complaint is that the ending is VERY long and drawn out. And even though a few loose ends are tied up, it seems padded and interminable. We didn't really need to see WW II battle scenes, and even if the ending worked in the novel it seems very phony in the film.