Bright Young Things

Bright Young Things
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in the 1930’s a social set known to the press – who follow their every move – as the “Bright Young Things.” are Adam and his friends who are eccentric, wild and entirely shocking to the older generation. Amidst the madness, Adam, who is well connected but totally broke, is desperately trying to get enough money to marry the beautiful Nina. While his attempts to raise cash are constantly thwarted, their friends seem to self-destruct, one-by-one, in an endless search for newer and faster sensations. Finally, when world events out of their control come crashing around them, they are forced to reassess their lives and what they value most.

Title:Bright Young Things
Release Date:May 16, 2003
MPAA Rating:R
Genres:Comedy, Foreign
Production Countries:United Kingdom
Director:Stephen Fry
Casts:, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Plot Keywords:independent film
Alternative Titles:
  • Escándalo con clase - [ES]

Bright Young Things Reviews

  • A must-see
    by Eren Kotan on 1 August 2004

    41 out of 53 people found the following review useful:

    What a fantastic movie, delightfully charming, unrelentingly affable and irresistibly likable. Brilliant acting, excellent realisation and direction; this movie was a joy to watch. A bittersweet love story interwoven with a hilarious array of eccentric English upper class characters from the early 20th century.

    Watch out for many faces in small but unforgettable parts, I especially adored Dan Aykroyd's, Michael Sheen's and Jim Broadbent's characters. Fenella Woolgar was also perfect and immensely likable in her role as the dazed and confused but eternally cheerful and optimistic eccentric. Emily Mortimer was flawless as the English rose stuck between marrying money or sticking with her penniless true love. There was palpable chemistry between her and Stephen Campbell Moore's character, which made the whole story work for me.

    And of course Peter O'Toole steals the film with barely five minutes of total screen time, but that's the kind of talent he was gifted with. Watch it if you enjoy witty dialogue, period pieces and don't you dare miss it if you're a Stephen Fry fan. He is a very funny man and his direction which remains always affectionate towards the characters he's portraying in his movie, was impressive given he's better known as an actor and writer.

    If you liked this movie, you would also like:

    - Enchanted April - A Month By The Lake - Widows Peak - In The Bleak Midwinter - A Room With A View

    All of these are in my list of top ten favourite films of all time. Bright Young Things just misses the mark to join them, but it's definitely in my top twenty.

  • Fun, Smart, and A Good Ride
    by mmize on 5 May 2004

    30 out of 34 people found the following review useful:

    This is one of the best films I have seen in a while. I was lucky to be able to catch it at Washington, DC's International Film Fest, but I hope that it gets a proper U.S. release date soon.

    The stunning costumes, set, and dialogue -- all very era-appropriate -- were compelling. I don't usually go for period pieces, but so much of this movie seemed tongue-and-cheek that I couldn't help enjoying it. The main characters were well-developed, each with their own quirks, and there were some unexpected twists that helped move the plot along.

    Stephen Campbell Moore, the actor who plays the lead (Adam Symes), is a real find. He carries the movie beautifully, and I wouldn't be surprised if he became a huge star. Even though Moore does fine on his own, you have to give credit to Simon Callow (King of Anatolia), Jim Broadbent (the drunk Major), and others in the supporting cast for mastering their oddball roles. Furthermore, the costume designer deserves an Oscar.

    I was a bit disappointed with the ending, or at least the scenes leading up to the end. The film starts out like a carnival ride and runs out of gas near the end. But, like all good carnival rides, once you finish, you want to get back on. That's the way I felt about "Bright Young Things." I can't wait to see it in the theater again.

  • Bright and Beautiful moments
    by gfrancie on 9 June 2004

    27 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

    "Bright Young Things" is a very stylish adaptation of the Evelyn Waugh novel, "Vile Bodies". I felt the film captured the snarky satire tone of the novel and was a fairly decent effort on the part of Stephen Fry who was making his directorial debut. I found the film played fairly light and enjoyable; a bit like a meringue that way. I suspect that this is a film for those with a fondness for wicked satire, in jokes and an interest in period pieces.

    There is a kind of manic pacing to the film and the cinematography which I suppose matches the feeling of the time. People had survived a war, and a pandemic so it might make one a bit dotty.

    I was quite pleased by some of the work by some of the young actors who had never been in a film before. They had a pleasant ease infront of the camera.

    It isn't going to be some over the top smash. It is one of those nice art house films that one later rents from the library and shares with certain friends who have a taste for colorful clothes and characters.

  • An Acid Satire With Serious Pretensions
    by noralee on 8 September 2004

    23 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

    "Bright Young Things" is a mostly effective satire, with some jarring seriousness thrown in, of "Masterpiece Theater" Jazz Age costume dramas for its first seven-eighths.

    Set in the same period as "Gosford Park," its conflicts are just within the sexual and financial eccentricities of the empty-headed leisure and wannabe leisure class, where titles don't match income or outflow.

    It is more of a visual evocation of Noel Coward songs and incorporates some of his numbers, as well as original sound-alike songs. The frolics have some similarities to the simultaneous Weimar Republic portrayed in "Cabaret."

    Stephen Campbell Moore as the protagonist is almost too good in his film debut, as his character's captivatingly serious eyes and demeanor conflict with his insouciant company, particularly Emily Mortimer as his dispassionate lover, though that justifies the stuck-on denouement, that even without having read the Evelyn Waugh book this is adapted from, "Vile Bodies," I can tell didn't have this too neat and comeuppance tying-up.

    The most pointed parts of the movie are its acid documentation of the birth of the tabloid gossip press, including Dan Ackroyd as a Canadian press baron with a more than passing resemblance to today's lords of Fleet Street. James McAvoy is very good as a more upper-class betraying precursor to his scandal-seeking scion reporter in the mini-series "State of Play," and manages to seem like a real person, unlike so many of the characters who are just types or plot conveniences.

    The production design and costumes are delightful.

  • A pretty good first stab
    by Azeem Ali Khan on 3 October 2003

    17 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

    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!

  • Fenella Woolgar Steals the Film
    by drednm on 25 July 2005

    15 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

    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.

  • Waugh A Waste
    by Bill Slocum ( on 21 March 2011

    8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

    "Bright Young Things" is a comedy that's never funny, a period piece that doesn't know what period it's in, and a party film that leaves you with the hangover.

    When writer-director Stephen Fry decided to make an adaptation of an Evelyn Waugh novel, he could have done himself a favor and not adapted "Vile Bodies." It's an episodic satire on the lives of a group of London club kids in the late 1920s that attempts to elicit laughter from the nasty ways they are run to ground by the world around them. The characters aren't meant for any deeper emotional investment than lab rats, though Fry seems to believe otherwise.

    At the center of the story, in both novel and film, is young Adam (Stephen Campbell Moore), who at the start of our story has lost his prized manuscript and is desperately trying to find new sources of funding with which to marry his lover Nina (Emily Mortimer). Opportunity comes in the form of an offer from publisher Lord Monomark (Dan Aykroyd) who wants Adam's help "tearing the lid off the young, idle, and rich."

    "I put Seignior Mussolini on the front page, no one buys a copy," he laments. "But a picture of one of your set in a nightclub, I can't print enough copies."

    The problem with both the novel and the film is this interesting idea is dropped almost before it begins, in favor of a number of other outrageous episodes which seem to act on the principle that anything can be made merry provided it moves fast enough. Like a strange major who makes off with some money Adam wanted to bet on a long-shot horse. Or a party that winds up finding themselves in the Prime Minister's residence. Or a car race that loses a wayward driver. All of this is drawn out as if it were funny merely by being incongruous.

    The film is worse on a few counts. First, Fry by necessity condenses the story but is at pains to include almost every character that appears in the book, as a way of facilitating assorted cameos that run from extraneous (Richard E. Grant as an angry Jesuit) to sad (John Mills as a mute coke sniffer). Second, he invests his version with an elegiac sadness that feels totally out of place in the second half. Nothing says comedy like a man sticking his head in an oven, or another tearfully discovering his homosexual lifestyle exposed.

    Even the main romance, a matter of crass opportunism in the book, is presented as a kind of real love story, even heroic as the Roaring '20s zip suddenly ahead to Dunkirk and the Blitz. Fry doesn't seem to trust either Waugh's wit or his own to make "Bright Young Things" work on comedic grounds, or else he really thinks the characters worth celebrating. The result is a doubled-down waste of our time.

  • Manic Depressive.
    by sandra small ( on 24 March 2008

    8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

    The film Bright Young Things, adapted from Evelyne Waugh's acclaimed fable; Vile Bodies is manic in its pace. As such it is reminiscent of His Girl Friday (1940) with its legendary speed of comedy delivery. The difference with His Girl Friday the speed of the comedy delivery is applied to loquaciousness with a bit of slap stick. Director Stephen Fry of Bright Young Things on the other hand utilises speed to articulate the decadence of the period. As such he is affective in his endeavour of making his point of a decadent aristocracy.

    The depressing aspect of the film is that the aristocracy are portrayed as decadent party animals, unlike the poor who in their pursuit of escaping their worries are (in today's post modern Britain) often labelled as 'feckless' by the tabloid press. But as the impoverished poor struggled to feed themselves across Europe during the inter-war period, the aristocracy idly carried on without social conscience or obligation to responsibility. Such decadence at the expense of the poor contributed towards the rise of extreme politics in Europe during the 1920s.

    Contributing to the masses' public perception of the idle rich decadence of the inter-war period was the tabloid press. The press baron in the film is shown as suppressing the realities of the issues affecting the ordinary people of Britain for profit, and thereby concealing truth.

    While Fry adeptly captures the decadence of the 20s in Bright Young Things, Peter O'Toole steels the film with his outstanding satirising of the stereotypical English eccentric. As the eccentric of the upper classes O'Toole's character Colnol Blout is the epitome of English two faced diplomacy of the ruling classes. The example being when he writes a cheque out for £1000 to help his prospective son-in-law to marry his daughter, when he signs it in the name of Charlie Chaplin. A typical English snub no less!

    Excellent film, well acted and brilliantly directed.

  • An Excellent Adaptation
    by spanishflea50 on 12 June 2004

    8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

    Having seen this film at the cinema and thoroughly enjoyed it I purchased it on DVD and then read the book so as to better judge whether the comments that the film was an exceedingly loose adaptation were true. It is certainly true that Fry hasn't stuck to the narrative strictly but the changes he made in the name of good cinema were overwhelmingly the right ones and he actually managed to bring forward some entertaining background characters and relegate some fairly tedious ones. For example Lord Monomark who is a Canadian Newspaper magnate shamelessly based on Lord Beverbrook is rairly mentioned in the book but is superbly played by Dan Ackroyd in the film whilst the PM Walter Outrage who features heavily in Waughs novel is barely mentioned in the film and rightly so as the character in the novel is a complicated amalgamation of contemporary politics (i.e Ramsay Mcdonald and Bonar Law)that even I having studied the period extensively found heavy going. Also whilst the ending is contrived to be too happy it is a marginal improvement on the novel in my opinion which doesn't seem to conclude the book very well. Overall a superb film with excellent production values and peerless period feel for which Stephen Fry should be commended. I just hope that he has a stab at at adapting Decline and Fall which is another excellent Waugh novel.

  • An Age of Excess Revisited
    by B24 on 8 April 2006

    8 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

    A most notable characteristic of this film is that it rather zanily merges the 1920's with the 1930's. That historical distortion may seem a slight defect to some viewers choosing to concentrate on a broader stage involving the upper class in its last throes of excess, but for me it destroys the underlying plot. The years before the Great Depression -- the Roaring 20's -- were sui generis. Moving everything forward to events as late as 1940 is a forced element that simply fails.

    Otherwise, there are some bright young moments here. Character actors do indeed steal the show, even if some are given throw-away roles. If only there were better and more believable development of various interactions between the leads, it would make for compelling drama; but we are treated instead to campy olio resolving itself into a strange conclusion, somewhat surreal. For example, the business between Adam and Ginger having to do with money as WWII rages on is misplaced farce -- even if the audience assumes a generous disposition of credulity.

    Little wonder outsiders looking in have a difficult time with this film, not to mention us history buffs.

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