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A Handful of Dust (1988)

PG | | Drama, Romance | 24 June 1988 (USA)
The wife's affair and a death in the family hasten the demise of an upper-class English marriage.

Director:

Charles Sturridge

Writers:

Evelyn Waugh (novel), Tim Sullivan (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 3 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
James Wilby ... Tony Last
Kristin Scott Thomas ... Brenda Last
Richard Beale Richard Beale ... Ben
Jackson Kyle Jackson Kyle ... John Andrew
Norman Lumsden Norman Lumsden ... Ambrose
Jeanne Watts Jeanne Watts ... Nanny
Kate Percival Kate Percival ... Miss Ripon
Richard Leech ... Doctor
Roger Milner Roger Milner ... Vicar
Tristram Jellinek Tristram Jellinek ... Richard Last
Anjelica Huston ... Mrs. Rattery
Rupert Graves ... John Beaver
Judi Dench ... Mrs. Beaver
Pip Torrens ... Jock
Beatie Edney ... Marjorie
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Storyline

We see the detritus of an abandoned camp in South America and a main character's hallucination. Then, the story beings. Tony and Brenda Last, lord and lady, live on his enormous estate with their young son. Tony's not much for parties, and Brenda joins London society, on the arm of a penniless man, John Beaver, a hanger-on at Tony's club. John is encouraged by his entrepreneurial mother, who sees a quid in Tony and Brenda. Brenda and John become lovers, Brenda spends more and more time in London, and Tony's without a clue. Then, bringing things to a head are tragedy, law suits, greed, and what should be a few-months' expedition to Brazil. We are each of us merely a handful of dust. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

24 June 1988 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Evelyn Waugh's A Handful of Dust See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$35,470, 26 June 1988

Gross USA:

$1,560,700

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$1,560,700
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Color (Fujicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The Duke of Norfolk let his house be used and appeared as the gardener touching his forelock respectfully to Mrs. Ratterby (Anjelica Huston). See more »

Quotes

Dr. Messinger: Are you acquainted with a Nicaraguan who calls himself alternately Ponsonby or Fitzmaurice?
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Benchwarmers (2006) See more »

Soundtracks

King Of Love My Shepherd Is
(uncredited)
Traditional Irish melody
Words by Henry W. Baker (1868)
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Extremely good and faithful version of Waugh's classic satire
24 October 2009 | by pfgpowell-1See all my reviews

An 18th-century English writer, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, once wrote (putting Alexander Pope in his place): "Satire should, like a polished razor keen, wound with a touch that's scarcely felt or seen". This is exactly what Evelyn Waugh's novel A Handful Of Dust does and the film, in my view, fully does the novel justice. Waugh's satire here is very underplayed, very understated and very funny, but none the less utterly lethal for all that. Charles Sturridge and his fellow screenwriter's have, as far as I can see, stuck extremely close to the novel, which is no bad thing as Waugh was an extremely economical writer and there would be little point in trying to gild the lily. Although Waugh wrote his novel as a young man, his thorough dislike of modernity - which he regarded as insincere cant - in every shape or form is already apparent and he mercilessly sends up its more vicious aspects. But Waugh was too intelligent just to hate for hate's sake: it was the loss of admirable qualities in favour of 'progress' which upset him. So in the novel and film Tony Last behaves well to everyone despite a great many people, not least his 'modern' wife Brenda, treating him appallingly badly. He is loyal, values tradition, honest, accommodating and indulgent and in return loses everything. Brenda is conventionally sweet but is simply a self-centred monster who lives without a thought for anyone, and always gains what she wants. One reviewer here complained that 'nothing' happens in the film. Not a bit of it. A great deal happens but everyone is so polite and well-brought up that no one, not even Tony, questions the huge injustice of it all. If you are reading these reviews while considering whether to see this film, bear in mind the quotation with which I started my contribution: Satire that's 'scarcely felt or seen'. That will give you the key to enjoying a very good film indeed. (NB The full quotation putting down Pope runs: "Satire should, like a polished razor keen, wound with a touch that's scarcely felt or seen. Thine is an oyster knife, that hacks and hews, the rage but not the talent to abuse.")


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