Bright Young Things
R4 - Australia - Warner/ Icon
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (7th July 2004).
The Film

After many years working in front of the camera actor / comedian Stephen Fry has gone for a change of pace for his next project, this time he was to direct. Having been a fan of Fry's many film and television appearances I was confident that whatever he did would be worth watching. Bright Young Things was his choice, a film Adaptation of the Evelyn Waugh novel "Vile Bodies", the story follows the lives of a novelist, Adam Symes (Stephen Campbell Moore) and his lover, Nina Blount (Emily Mortimer) as they mix it up with the upper echelons of fashionable 1930?s London. Adam, having come to London to sell a book in which he has written entitled "Bright Young Things" gets swiftly taken to the customs office where it is confiscated as it's thought to be pornographic material. He eventually meets the publisher Lord Monomark (Dan Aykroyd) and is immediately in his service to re-write the book. Adam is continuously losing money faster than he can make it to keep up with his and his friends' rather outrageous lifestyle, while at the same time attempting to on-again-off-again marry Nina and re-write a book. Life seems a bit much for Adam, but is never let down and is always seeing the optimistic side of life in an almost naive carefree kind of way. But when a chance encounter with a drunk Major (played to wonderful perfection by Jim Broadbent) leads to a large win at the races on an underdog horse, Adam is faced with having won a large amount of money and all he has to do is find the Major to collect his winnings, only problem is the Major is a hard person to get a hold of. As Adam moves along with his life he decides to take a job with his publisher as a secret gossip columnist to chronicle the fast moving lifestyle that his friends the wealthy and privileged of London lead. It's all about sex, money, drugs, power and influence at the hands of twenty-somethings. Eventually his friends look for newer more dangerous sensations and one-by-one they eventually crash and burn.
Bright Young Things is above all a very entertaining look at high society in the 1930?s with an almost modern feel (with all the parties, drinking and drugs you'd think this should have been a film set in today's day and age) the film comes across as almost a 1930s Human Traffic meets the Hilton Sisters.
Fry certainly makes a bold statement, with the use of over-the-top performances by both the leads and the wonderfully eccentric supporting cast (which also includes a brilliant cameo role by the great Peter O'Toole as Nina's father) that adds a lush flavour to the overall film. Matched with photography that can only be described as an almost erotic use of bold colours are equally immersive. While the acting and the look of the film are both suited for the style the stand out aspect of this film is the script itself. Fry had done a great job at adapting the book to his own comic sensibilities, the dialogue comes across as incredibly fresh that is mixed with a uniquely dry British sense of humour.
The film however does have its flaw, I use the singular because I could only find one flaw that didn't feel right to me and that was the ending, While I won't give away the ending, but it was over-the-top much like the film itself, although during the majority of the film, the eccentric behaviour was grounded in reality the ending, although rather amusing seemed a little off that mark. Overall Bright Young Things was a fun film to watch, Fry has done well with his first directorial effort.

Video

Presented in the film's original ratio of 2.35:1 this widescreen transfer is anamorphically enhanced for 16x9 TVs. The transfer is marvellous, colours are vivid and well defined, the clarity is sharp one thing that impressed was that a lot of the film takes places in dark rooms and locations and black levels where exceptional and held up very well as did shadow detail.

Audio

This DVD comes with two soundtracks, the first is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track and the other is an English Descriptive Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track, which I had a chance to listen to and it is exactly as it suggests the track features a woman narrator describing what is happening on-screen much like a book on tape. The only reason I can think of why this track exists is for the blind to enjoy the story.
The Dolby 5.1 track is fairly good, dialogue was always clear and easy to hear and I was able to detect some surround activity in the rear speakers, although the majority of the sound was confined to the front and centre channels, however once the wonderful jazz score kicks in the rear channels are used to full effect including the bass, which was occasionally used but mainly confined to the musical aspects of the soundtrack. Apart from this minor quibble the 5.1 track was rather good and served the film well.

Extras

Warner Brothers have basically given us a direct port of the previously released UK Region 2 release, the extras included on the disc are an audio commentary by writer/director Stephen Fry, two documentaries, a theatrical trailer, some TV spots and a radio spot. Below is a look at each of these extras:

The first extra is the feature-length audio commentary by the writer and director of this film Stephen Fry. Fry talks about some editing tricks used, goes into some detail about the sets and locations used I the film as well as touches on some of the character journey's and story outline. Overall it's a fairly standard commentary that doesn't really divulge any secrets but touches on the production as a whole. It would have been nice to include some of the wonderful cast in this commentary or even some of the technical crew such as the cinematographer and perhaps even the editor to give their insights into the production and tell us about some of the challenges faced with a film of this sort.

Following the commentary we have a documentary entitled "Stephen Fry: Director's Documentary" which runs just over nine and a half minutes and is rather undeserving of the title 'documentary', as it's more of a featurette, and is your standard EPK style fair with actors talking briefly about their characters and involvement in the film and some kind words about their director.

The next documentary we have on the disc is "From The Bottom Up" this runs at just over the half hour mark is truly deserving of the title 'documentary' and is the gem of the extras on this disc. This documentary follows the production runner during the course of the eight-week shooting schedule. Included in the documentary are interview segments with key crewmembers, the cast and director cut in with behind-the-scenes footage narrated by the production runner. A great feature that gives the viewer a first hand look at the production of a major motion picture.

Rounding out the extras are a theatrical trailer, 3 TV spots and a single radio spot.

Overall

A rather good film with some memorable moments and a wonderful cast, Stephen Fry has done a great job as a first time director in crafting an amusing picture. As for the DVD, the film and sound transfers are very good and present the film accurately, although there are a few extras on this disc, they don?t contain much in the way of substance. The commentary is enjoyable to listen to but would have been stronger had other cast and crew also been involved. The true gem of the extras is the "From The Bottom Up" documentary.

The Film: B Video: A+ Audio: A- Extras: B+ Overall: B+

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.