Bright Young Things


I don't know quite what to make of this film. Having heard of its advent, I read Waugh's Vile Bodies and while reading wondered how in the world one would make a movie of it. Like A Handful of Dust the episodic quirkiness of Waugh's writing seemed not to lend itself to filming.

While this is marginally better than A Handful of Dust as a film, I'm not certain it is successful for a variety of reasons. Although there is the hint of the inferno implicit in the introductory scenes, much of Waugh's sharper material has been left out of the movie. The ultimate fate of Agatha, for instance, is completely glossed over. We don't see enough of Mrs. Ape to see what a fraud and a sham she is. And finally, Stephen Fry has somehow crafted from Waugh's rather bleak book a "happy ending," which is in no way really happy for anyone.

I would have to watch the film again. And fortunately, it is extremely watchable--the cinematography is quite fine and there is much too much going on at any moment in the film for me to be certain I have captured it all. But overall, I would say that it was a good attempt at capturing the essence of the book, but it is ultimately subversive of Waugh's intent--a devastating criticism of modernism and of the shallow, empty life of between-the-wars England.

Worth seeing with the caveat that you shouldn't expect to see Waugh here.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on March 2, 2005 7:35 AM.

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