Friday, August 1, 2008

"Brideshead Revisited" - REVIEW

I'd like to sum up my general thoughts on the 2008 interpretation of Evelyn Waugh's novel by borrowing a line from a commentary on when Larry King interviewed Paris Hilton when she was released from jail: [I] seemed consistently attentive, but not terribly interested. Okay, the last part of that statement isn't really true...Brideshead certainly kept me interested...perhaps a more appropriate "i" word would be "involved". As we trace the kinda-sorta-maybe-maybe not friendship/romance/bromance between Charles Ryder (Matthew Goode) and closeted Sebastian Flyte (Ben Whishaw) and their immersion into the world of the Flyte family mansion of Brideshead, there's a constant sense of intrigue maintained throughout. The only problem is that the script is lacking a necessary romantic spark required to have any weighty emotional impact. Ironically, the person who brought me closest to feeling anything remotely strong was the super uptight megabitch played by Emma Thompson (a nice change of pace to see her as an unsympathetic character); when she pleads to Charles to go find Sebastian (I won't elaborate further) her icy and domineering exterior thaws for just a half second, but it's enough to strike an (truly bizarre and out of place) emotional chord. However, even with the lack of true engagement, the film's analysis of the British upper class, and religion (ranging from cruelly domineering to perfectly decent) should be enough to keep most audiences interested...perhaps even moreso had the movie not built up to an annoyingly misleading "climax"; once I reached this moment, the remaining 30 minutes of the film seemed interminable, and I was often ready to bang my head and yell "END THE DAMN THING ALREADY!". So far I've really only touched on Thompson, but she's not the only strong performer. Ben Whishaw turns in a very good performance as troubled Sebastian, and Michael Gambon and Gretta Scacchi are good with what little time they have, although this doesn't stop a lot of the characters from feeling heavy handed (for a better Catholicism vs. atheism story, read Graham Greene's brilliant "The Power and the Glory"). What's truly a downer though, is the direction and cinematography; sometimes the camera work feels jarringly amateurish against the sophisticated material, and the lighting does no favors to the lovely often removes what little impact they have. The music is quite nice though, and it helps make the endless half hour a bit more bearable. But if this shorter version feels long, I'm now terrified as to how long the original 11 hour mini series would feel to watch......but who knows...maybe that one goes by faster...

Grade: C+

Nominations: Best Supporting Actor - Ben Whishaw(#5), Best Supporting Actress - Emma Thompson(#5), Best Costume Design(#5), Best Original Score - Adrian Johnston(#4)

Number of 2008 Films Seen: 22

No comments: