World War II. Charles Ryder (Matthew Goode), in his civilian life, rose out of his middle class London background, which includes being an atheist and having a distant relationship with his eccentric father, to become an up and coming artist. He is currently an Army officer, who is stationed at a makeshift camp set up at Brideshead estate before imminently getting shipped into battle. The locale, which is not unfamiliar to him, makes him reminisce about what ended up being his doomed relationship with Brideshead's owners, the Flytes, an ostentatiously wealthy family. Charles first met Sebastian Flyte (Ben Whishaw) when they both were students at Oxford, where Sebastian surprisingly welcomed Charles into his circle of equally wealthy, somewhat stuck-up, and flamboyant friends. Charles ended up getting caught up in Sebastian's family struggles, where Sebastian used excessive alcohol to deal with the pain resulting from his family relationships. Although Charles and Sebastian were more ...Written by
Dame Emma Thompson threatened to quit this movie if the producers persisted in pushing buxom Hayley Atwell to lose weight. Atwell said that Harvey Weinstein even insulted her over lunch by saying: "You look like a fat pig on-screen. Stop eating so much." See more »
In Lord Marchmain's deathbed scene, Fr. Mackay imparts absolution while Charles Ryder and members of the family are in attendance. Absolution is never imparted in public in this way. The others would have been asked to step out. Moreover, the Latin form of the absolution given, although it is the correct traditional one, is badly mispronounced and contains several errors in the details of the Latin text. See more »
What do you want to be an artist for? I mean, what's the point of it? Why don't you just buy a bloody camera and take a bloody photograph and stop giving yourself airs? That's what I want to know.
I don't give myself airs.
Uh, yes, you do. And anyway you haven't answered my question. Come on! Answer! Answer! Answer!
Because, a camera is a mechanical device which records a moment in time, but not what that moment means or the emotions that it evokes. Whereas, a painting, however imperfect it may be...
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It's attributed to just about everybody - from Ginger Rogers to Milan Kundera - and it sounds so right: "There are no small parts, only small actors."
If you want proof and a real understanding of the adage, revisit "Brideshead Revisited," and behold the miracle of Emma Thompson's Lady Marchmain, sucking the life out of anything and anybody she touches, and Michael Gambon's delightfully dissolute Lord Marchmain. She has about 10 minutes on the screen, he perhaps four, and yet their characters will follow you out of the theater, and stay with you at length.
Thompson's work is especially dazzling because the mean, sanctimonious character is so clearly alien to the actress (in fact, I suspected miscasting when I first heard of her assignment) and also as the character is so exaggerated, almost a caricature. And yet, Thompson gives the challenge her all, and walks away with it; the performance has Best Supporting Actress written all over it.
It's difficult to believe that the man you see as Marchmain is the same actor who was the "Singing Detective" (of the superb BBC series, not the Robert Downey Jr. mishap). Gambon has a range as wide as all outdoors, and you never ever see effort in the performance. His amiable Marchmain - subtly hinting at a complex character under the surface - has a physical similarity to Gambon's Uncle Vanya on the London stage, but otherwise, it's a unique creation.
What else is there to this new "edition" of "Brideshead"? A great deal, but only if you're among those who missed both Evelyn Waugh's novel and the wonderful Granada TV realization 27 long years ago - Irons! Gielgud! Olivier! - how can you compete with that? So, if it's a first-time visit, see the movie by all means; if you can recite lines from the book or the TV series, you can survive without the new version.
In 135 minutes, the film is handling well what the TV series did so completely in - yes - 13 HOURS. Obviously, except for the basic story line (script by Jeremy Brock, of "The Last King of Scotland"), this is a different kind of animal, still "leisurely" enough, but unable to luxuriate in the smallest details as the series did. The director is Julian Jarrold, and he is doing far better than in his recent "Becoming Jane," keeps the story moving in a smooth fashion.
As to the leading roles in the film, they are all well acted, but without great impact. Matthew Goode is Charles Ryder, the focal character; Ben Whishaw is the slightly over-flamboyant Sebastian Flyte (who needs understating more than exaggerating - Anthony Andrews' performance in the TV series was exactly right); Hayley Atwell is Sebastian's sister (and rival for Charles' affection).
One amazing thing about "Brideshead" is how this story from a different time, about characters from a different world, remains interesting and meaningful. It's almost as if Waugh's work was bulletproof - not that these filmmakers were less than respectful to the author. A better test would be a Eurotrash opera version, heaven forfend.
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