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3 items from 2003


Bright Young Things

23 September 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

LONDON -- Writer-director Stephen Fry's "Bright Young Things" is a Jazz Age English period comedy full of frightfully keen chaps and their ever-so-dotty girlfriends who spend all their time dashing from one society party to another for no particular purpose. In his novel "Vile Bodies", on which the film is based, Evelyn Waugh called them bright young "people," not the patronizing "things." Their furious pursuit of gaiety is cast in the grave shadow of World War I, when the looming sense that even more devastating conflict lie ahead gives way to ceaseless frivolity and an almost lunatic carelessness. In the movie, they are merely the unspeakable in pursuit of the unedifying.

Fry is a noted British writer, actor, raconteur and all-around wit who wrote and makes his feature film-directing debut with "Bright Young Things". The result will be judged on two levels: as an adaptation of Waugh's classic novel and as a film on its own merits. Possibly torn between the two, Fry fails at both. Noisy and giddy, the film makes a stab at "Moulin Rouge" territory but ends up as a very trite story of boy loses girl, boy finds girl. It is also stridently camp -- not so much roaring '20s as screaming. It will take an extremely focused marketing campaign for the film to find any kind of substantial audience.

Waugh made his intentions reasonably clear, populating his satirical landscape with such characters as Lady Fanny Throbbing, Lady Circumference and Mrs. Melrose Ape, and Fry follows that path too. Many of his scenes are almost word-for-word from the original. It's where he deviates from Waugh's subtle and fragile construction that things go wrong. Adam Fenwick-Symes Stephen Campbell Moore) indeed returns from the continent only to have his memoirs, for which he has already been paid, confiscated by a moralistic customs man. He duly informs his unfazed sweetheart, Nina Blount (Emily Mortimer) that as he is now impecunious, they may not be married.

Adam retreats to the seedy Shepheard's Hotel, run by the reliably generous Lottie Crump (Julia McKenzie), where he performs a piece of legerdemain to win £1,000 from a gullible fellow and promptly telephones Nina that the wedding is back on. Deep into Lottie's bottomless champagne, however, Adam hands his £1,000 over to a "drunk major" (Jim Broadbent), who says he will place it on a sure thing in the November Handicap horse race. The major disappears and Adam is on the phone again to Nina with the bad news.

Their on-again, off-again love affair and Adam's search for the drunk major and his winnings are played out against the adventures of the chinless wonders, empty-headed heiresses, lecherous lords and doughty dowagers as recorded in the highly imaginative gossip columns of Mr. Chatterbox, published by newspaper mogul Lord Monomark (Dan Aykroyd).

So influential was Waugh that we have seen many of these characters in English movies before, especially those from Ealing Studios, played deliciously by a roster of such great character actors as Alastair Sim, Alec Guinness, Dennis Price, Terry-Thomas, Katie Johnson and Margaret Rutherford. Only two players in "Bright Young Things" demonstrate similar ability. Broadbent's drunk major suffers from overfamiliarity only because John Cleese rendered the character so effectively in "Fawlty Towers" (Ballard Berkeley as Maj. Gowen). Sadly, Peter O'Toole is given only one, marvelous scene as Col. Blount, Nina's father, who mistakes his daughter's beloved, Adam, for a vacuum cleaner salesman.

Fry's choice is to pump up the unfunny Aykroyd as Lord Monomark and eliminate the book's entire sequence that has Col. Blount making a film about the life of John Wesley at his seen-better-days estate, Doubting Hall. Even worse is the way Fry ends the film. Waugh titled his final chapter "Happy Ending", but, writing in 1930, he famously closed with the bleakest imaginable setting by a splintered tree stump in the biggest battlefield in the history of the world. Suffice to say that Fry doesn't.

Bright Young Things

The Film Consortium presents in association with the U.K. Film Council and Visionview

and Icon Film Distribution a Revolution Films/Doubting Hall production

Credits:

Director-screenwriter: Stephen Fry

Based on the novel "Vile Bodies" by: Evelyn Waugh

Producers: Gina Carter, Miranda Davis

Executive producers: Andrew Eaton, Michael Winterbottom, Stephen Fry, Chris Auty, Neil Peplow, Jim Reeve, Steve Robbins

Co-producer: Caroline Hewitt

Director of photography: Henry Braham

Production designer: Michael Howells

Editor: Alex Mackie

Composer: Anne Dudley

Costume designer: Nic Ede

Cast:

Adam: Stephen Campbell Moore

Nina: Emily Mortimer

Agatha: Fenella Woolgar

Simon: James McAvoy

Miles: Michael Sheen

Ginger: David Tennant

Archie: Guy Henry

Lord Monomark: Dan Aykroyd

Drunk Major: Jim Broadbent

Mrs. Melrose Ape: Stockard Channing

Col. Blount: Peter O'Toole

Running time -- 106 minutes

No MPAA rating »

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Wayans joining pack of thieves for 'Ladykillers'

7 May 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Scary Movie star Marlon Wayans is set to appear opposite Tom Hanks in the Coen brothers-directed remake of Ladykillers for Touchstone Pictures. A remake of the 1955 comedy starring Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers, Ladykillers centers on an eccentric Southern professor (Hanks) who puts together a gang of double-crossing thieves to rob a riverboat casino. They rent a room in an old woman's house, but when she discovers the scheme, somebody has to kill her. The landlady proves tough to dispatch, however. Wayans will play one of the thieves. Ladykillers was penned by Joel and Ethan Coen and is being produced by Tom Jacobson, Barry Sonnenfeld, Barry Josephson and Ethan Coen. The Walt Disney Co. production president Nina Jacobson and executive Jeff Clifford are overseeing for Touchstone, with production planned for the summer. A veteran of both Scary Movie films (which he wrote and starred in), Wayans has also appeared in such films as Requiem for a Dream and Dungeons and Dragons. While he is not involved in the upcoming third installment of the Scary franchise, Wayans is developing a pair of comedy projects at Revolution Studios with his brothers Keenen Ivory and Shawn. Wayans is repped by CAA, attorney Kevin Yorn and manager Eric Gold. »

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Wayans joining pack of thieves for 'Ladykillers'

7 May 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Scary Movie star Marlon Wayans is set to appear opposite Tom Hanks in the Coen brothers-directed remake of Ladykillers for Touchstone Pictures. A remake of the 1955 comedy starring Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers, Ladykillers centers on an eccentric Southern professor (Hanks) who puts together a gang of double-crossing thieves to rob a riverboat casino. They rent a room in an old woman's house, but when she discovers the scheme, somebody has to kill her. The landlady proves tough to dispatch, however. Wayans will play one of the thieves. Ladykillers was penned by Joel and Ethan Coen and is being produced by Tom Jacobson, Barry Sonnenfeld, Barry Josephson and Ethan Coen. The Walt Disney Co. production president Nina Jacobson and executive Jeff Clifford are overseeing for Touchstone, with production planned for the summer. A veteran of both Scary Movie films (which he wrote and starred in), Wayans has also appeared in such films as Requiem for a Dream and Dungeons and Dragons. While he is not involved in the upcoming third installment of the Scary franchise, Wayans is developing a pair of comedy projects at Revolution Studios with his brothers Keenen Ivory and Shawn. Wayans is repped by CAA, attorney Kevin Yorn and manager Eric Gold. »

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3 items from 2003


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