Running Time: 106 mins
Stephen Fry, who portrayed Oscar Wilde in the film of that name, sees himself as something of a successor to Wilde in being a satirist, a wit and an elegant critic of British society and its pretensions. One could add more than a dose of Evelyn Waugh in his 1920s and 1930s novels to that description. That is why it seems very appropriate that Fry should adapt Waugh's portrait of uppercrust butterflies of the 30s, Vile Bodies, to the screen.
One of the major difficulties of reading Waugh and watching Fry's version is that most of the characters are unattractive twits, all a-twitter, imagining that they are God's gift to England and caught up in a superficial world of wealth, extravagance, narcissism. It is a gaudy and gay world of parties, race meetings and incessant gossip. For those who find such characters obnoxious and unbearable, it may be hard to sit through their stories even though you know that Waugh and Fry are going to make some moral conclusions by the end of the film. In fact, with the outbreak of World War II, this world collapses and some sense of responsibility emerges on the bright young things' scene.
Fry has a very large British cast, young things in the central roles like Charles Campbell More, Emily Mortimer, Michael Sheen and David Tennant and a great number of old things in supporting roles, Jim Broadbent as an eccentric drunken major, Peter O'Toole doing an excellent comic turn as an eccentricly doddering father, Julia Mackenzie as an old-fashioned landlady, Dan Aykroyd parodying the North American media moguls who dominated the British press and even John Mills doing some cocaine.
Glossy, glitzy satire.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is the International President of SIGNIS: the World Association for Catholic Communications and an Associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.