, 133 min, 2008
Director: Julian Jarrold
Writers: Andrew Davies and Jeremy Brock (written by), Evelyn Waugh (novel)
Stars: Matthew Goode, Patrick Malahide, Hayley Atwell
Julian Jarrold’s Brideshead Revisited is a sumptuous, would-be brilliant literary adaptation, a period epic, a sudsy melodrama and a tale of forbidden romances.
Charles Ryder (Matthew Goode of Woody Allen’s Match Point), while at Oxford, met Sebastian Flyte (Ben Whishaw from Tom Tykwer’s Perfume: The Story of a Murderer). Sebastian, a drunk homosexual, was immediately taken with Charles and taught him the ropes of “surviving” on campus. Soon, Charles was spending a moony, platonic summer as Sebastian’s friend, only to go to the Brideshead and meet Julia (Hayley Atwell from Allen’s Cassandra’s Dream), a lovely society beauty who quickly attracts Charles’ affections.
If this was problematic for the matriarch, Lady Marchmain (Emma Thompson), whose family had always been made of staunch Roman-Catholics (Charles is an atheist), then it was heartbreaking for Sebastian, having been so thoroughly seduced by Charles’ well-meaning charms.
Years later, Charles is a famous painter and reencounters the now married Julia on a cross-Atlantic trip. And so it goes…
Julian Jarrold (Kinky Boots) is no stranger to the literary period piece, having previously made the young Jane Austen “biopic” Becoming Jane (2007). Here, he attempts to squeeze a much beloved novel by Evelyn Waugh (whose novelVile Bodies became the brilliant Stephen Fry film Bright Young Things a few years back) into 133 minutes – having previously been so successful as a 1981 mini-series.
Without having read the novel or seen the mini-series (yet), I can see that the potential is there for a great movie – but this one feels a bit truncated. The performances, especially by Thompson and Whishaw, are particularly good and the production is beautiful in a slightly pale imitation-Merchant-Ivory sort of way, but ultimately this doesn’t live up to its full potential, quite.