Bright Young Things Movie Review
It's OK to have fun in your twenties, and in Bright Young Things, the characters have plenty of it. They attend lavish costume parties that scream of good times and well-funded debauchery, do cocaine like Rick James in 1979 and take trips to the countryside, all the while exchanging quips. At its best, the movie resembles a far more literate, sophisticated version of an episode of the E! True Hollywood Story.
Like those glossy celebrity documentaries, Bright Young Things doesn't excel in looking at the human side of those subjects. Both capture dramatic, obvious moments, but give little regard to anything else. Director/writer Stephen Fry, adapting from Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies, captures the youthful energy of these celebrities perfectly, as well as the jealousy and admiration these people inspire. Away from the champagne and charm, Fry is too concerned with cheap laughs and dramatic posturing then examining the idea of how youth and fame are a dangerous mix.
This is best seen in the romantic interplay between the two lead characters, Adam (Stephen Campbell Moore), an aspiring writer, and Nina (Emily Mortimer), an uptown party girl. Adam is involved in drawn-out attempt to find money so they can marry, which involves chasing down a drunk major (a wasted - no pun intended - Jim Broadbent) and Nina's kooky father (Peter O'Toole). This pursuit goes on for so long that you start to believe that this isn't a prolonged gag, but an audience prank.
Bright Young Things seems pieced together without any concern for a cohesive narrative. You are whisked on jaunts, meet the dreaded "quirky" characters (including ones by Stockard Channing, Simon Callow, and a solid Dan Aykroyd) and party all night, but you can't shake the feeling that you're watching a collection of skits with no direction. And that feeling becomes acute when Fry gets serious on us, delving into topics such as suicide, war, and the value of true love.
There are some funny and observant moments -- Fry, author of The Hippopotamus and star of Peter's Friends, is one of England's premier humorists--but here he tries to do so much that he accomplishes little more than gathering a few chuckles. What could have been an insightful, satirical look into the laws of the social elite plays more like a series of New Yorker cartoons set at Gatsby's posh London crib, if he'd had one.
The DVD adds commentary from Fry, a biography of him, and a making-of featurette.