20 August 2010 | Rodrigo_Amaro
Despite some emptiness is quite good
I went to watch "Brideshead Revisited" without read Evelyn Waugh's novel and not knowing much about what it was so my opinions will be reserved exclusively about my thoughts about the movie, no kinds of comparisons whatsoever.
The movie tells the story of Charles Ryder (Matthew Goode) an artist remembering his involvement with the owners of the Brideshead estate, the aristocratic and Catholic Flyte family. He meets the drunk and rebel Sebastian (Ben Whishaw) and his enigmatic sister Julia (Hayley Atwell). Charles got romantically involved with both brother and sister (a challenge for viewers like me who haven't read the book and didn't understand the characters motivation especially those from Charles). And in the middle of all this there's the religious mother of the Flyte family (played by Emma Thompson) and their absent father living in Venice (played by Michael Gambon).
Looking to the film as a whole I think (and everyone's entitled to have their own opinion) that it is almost empty with nothing much to say, nothing much to show and it's very difficult to understand what the director wanted, what the writers wanted. Is it a story about a period or the story of a confused man? We know a man and his life then he meets this rich and complicated family, gets involved romantically with brother and sister, he doesn't really knows what love is and keeps going with his life. So what's the point?
The ambitions and motivations of the characters are uneasy, barely visible on the text written and I assume that only those who read the book might understand some of the things presented. About the relationship between Charles and Sebastian it was a weak presentation, something that sounded important to the story but in the end drove the viewer confused. They were sexually involved or it was just fooling around? I was expecting something like "Maurice" a powerful and difficult love story between two men set in a period similar to the "Brideshead".
Speaking of "Maurice" it reminds me that "Brideshead Revisited" needed a director like James Ivory to conduct this film more brilliantly and with a better screenplay. This material on the hands of Merchant Ivory would be fantastic, perhaps even winning a Oscar. The costumes and the art direction were excellent but a little bit eclipsed by a dark cinematography.
Besides the good technical aspects of the film it is watchable because of the good cast. Matthew Goode proves here that he can be a great lead man on a film; Emma Thompson was excellent and got the best part in the film; my only complaint comes from Ben Whishaw, who was good but the delicacy delivered by his character was excessive in some moments in which I couldn't care for his character, perhaps a bad touch coming from the screenplay.
It's another good case of a good movie that could be greater than it is. Needed a better director, a better writer and definitely a better screenplay. For a film with almost three hours it's very empty in substance. More cowbell here! 8/10
P.S.: Rewatched in 2017, and I'll keep most of my thoughts on it just as the first time of seeing it. It grows a little on the viewer due to its important themes about social/cultural/economical clashes and the influence rich people have on less fortuned people of whom they somewhat depend on in difficult times. Gotta admit those themes were greatly presented.