Stephen Fry has adapted & directed Waugh’s “Vile Bodies” for the screen as “Bright Young Things.”
*dashes out and buys theater tickets* Rat bastards! Not currently playing in my area. *grinds teeth* Must dash home and read the original while I’m waiting for the trickle down.
Click below for part of the Salon review:
“Bright Young Things”
Stephen Fry takes a few liberties, but ultimately does Evelyn Waugh justice with this deliciously dazzling adaptation of the gleefully naughty “Vile Bodies.”
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By Stephanie Zacharek
Aug. 20, 2004 | Stephen Fry’s “Bright Young Things,” adapted from Evelyn Waugh’s gleeful, running-with-scissors 1930 satirical novel “Vile Bodies,” perfectly and admirably captures the spirit of Waugh — except when it doesn’t. Waugh set “Vile Bodies” in England, in an imaginary near-future that shares many characteristics with the real 1920s. Most notably, it’s populated by a set of “bright young people” who fill their days with one chief activity: staving off boredom, a state of mind they fear more than poverty (particularly because most of them don’t have to fear poverty at all).
To call “Vile Bodies” a satire or a social commentary is to pin the handiest one-size-fits-all tag on it. While it is elegant and snickeringly hilarious (it’s dotted with characters like “Lord Circumference” and “Fanny Throbbing,” their names alone like fat dollops of kitty-cat cream), Waugh’s sharpest darts are his invisible ones. He comments on bad behavior without ever stooping to do anything so gauchely obvious as actually comment. Everything the characters do is light and tossed off and often morally deplorable: They don’t have epiphanies, only parties. As shallow and sometimes unlikable as they are, though, we find ourselves wanting to be around them right through to the end of the book. That’s the ultimate test of their social magnetism: We’re real, they’re fictional, and still, we’d like to hang around them, if only they’d have us. How twisted is that?
Fry’s “Bright Young Things” so adeptly captures the insidious likability of Waugh’s characters, particularly in the movie’s first two-thirds, that we’re primed to forgive it for the way, in the end, it grinds home the moral messages that Waugh only nodded at (without bothering to raise an eyebrow or even lower his newspaper, it seems). Fry’s movie — he also adapted the screenplay — is set in the 1930s, as opposed to Waugh’s imagining of the 1930s, which was probably a choice made for convenience’ sake more than anything else. (As a filmmaker, how do you adapt a novel set in an imaginary “near future” of the 1930s and pretend World War II isn’t just around the corner? Better to acknowledge the course of history and be done with it. Besides that, Waugh’s 1930 vision of the future was prescient enough — he ends “Vile Bodies” with the beginning of a war.)