Directed by Stephen Fry, starring Emily Mortimer, Stephen Campbell Moore, Dan Aykroyd, Jim Broadbent, Simon Callow, Jim Carter, Stockard Channing, Richard E Grant, Guy Henry, James McAvoy, Julia McKenzie, John Mills, Alec Newman, Bill Paterson, Michael Sheen, Imelda Staunton, David Tennant, Harriet Walter, Fenella Woolgar and Peter O'Toole.
Adapted from Evelyn Waugh's satirical 1930 novel 'Vile Bodies', 'Bright Young Things' is notable on two counts: it marks the directorial debut of actor, comic and raconteur Stephen Fry, and it provides a rare enough opportunity to see Dan Aykroyd once again wiping the floor with those around him.
Adam Symes (Campbell Moore) is under pressure. A struggling writer, life becomes even more of a struggle when customs officials confiscate his new book on the basis that it's 'filth'. Penniless and therefore unable to marry socialite girlfriend Nina (Mortimer), Symes is thrown a lifeline when he is recruited as a prominent social diarist.
Through Nina, Symes now has the ultimate insider knowledge of the social set, with the film becoming a lens through which we see the hedonistic pursuits of the titular troupe. High on excess and even lower on morals, the bright young things are the antithesis of the privileged British stereotype – brash, louche and invigorated with a reckless disregard for tradition.
At 106 minutes, 'Bright Young Things' is short considering the amount of detail it squeezes in. But it doesn't always feel so short. Often it seems disjointed and confused, as if Fry is relying on the flawless attention to period detail to conceal the uneven pacing and episodic framing.
His screenplay is crammed with characters, which admittedly gives him the chance to call upon some solid newcomers and a few industry heavyweights. But the risks he has taken in adapting Waugh's novel – such as changing the ending - should have stretched to narrowing the scope. A leaner, tighter script could have analysed the main characters in more depth, while also magnifying the significance of the threat of war.
But this will inevitably win attention because of the cast. And in this, it doesn't disappoint. Mortimer is at once sympathetic and irritating as spoilt socialite Nina; Michael Sheen is suitably OTT as a camp dilettante, and Jim Broadbent is as reliable as ever as the pivotal, bumbling Major.
Campbell Moore is arguably the weakest link, his gormless expression totally at odds with the passion and spirit one normally associates with writers. Still, the imaginative casting of Aykroyd more than compensates, with the Canadian actor making the most of his immense physical presence and incisive delivery as media mogul Lord Monomark.
Ultimately, 'Bright Young Things' is a decent effort. But it's far too clinical and soulless to be a memorable one.