A review of “Bright Young Things” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: R for language, nudity, drug use

Run Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

 

 

Excess wit and energy imbues actor Stephen Fry’s directorial debut with a winning joie de vivre.

The Bright Young Things of tony Mayfair are the rage of London’s effervescent social scene in the freewheeling 1930s.  These fab Brits are seen at happening parties that are the source of upscale gossip columns all over England.

Aspiring novelist Adam Symes (Stephen Campbell Moore) arrives in town full of promise, clutching a leather satchel with his latest manuscript titled Bright Young Things.  It is designated inappropriate and immediately confiscated by customs, leaving Adam’s bright future in tatters.

Love to the rescue, a la vivacious, curvaceous party girl Nina Blount (Emily Mortimer), the Paris Hilton of London’s smart set.  Nina and Adam paint the town red, while Adam desperately seeks a means of means so that he can make an honest woman of his lady love.

Adam’s fortunes rise and fall with a good measure of merriment.  A casual wager nets him 1,000 pounds, which he promptly (and foolishly) offers up to an eccentric Major (a hilarious Jim Broadbent) who promises to multiply that windfall on a dodgy horse race.

Naturally the Major disappears, only to reappear at inopportune times with promises of pots of winnings tucked safely away at a local financial institution.  Car rallies and costume balls rage on, while Nina’s patience regarding Adam’s penury wears thin.

The media takes a humorous hit as Adam scrapes the bottom of the literary barrel as the mysterious Mr. Chatterbox, a gossip columnist with the inside track on the affairs du jour. 

Fry’s wry acumen is at the core of this indie charmer, based on Evelyn Waugh’s glittery 1930s novel “Vile Bodies”. Sinister undertones of drugs, homosexuality, and tattered reputations lend a thorny cynicism that keeps the general hilarity and drawing-room clichés from reeling out of control.

The cast is a virtual English Who’s Who – clearly Fry has called in the favors of friends with famous faces. Peter O’Toole is classic as Nina’s batty dad who repeatedly offers Adam large sums of money by way of enormous checks with bogus celebrity signatures.

Film nosedives in the last act, its final gasp turning its sights to war in an unsuccessful attempt to bring the far flung but engaging narrative to a resounding close.