DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Bright Young Things

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Michael Elliott, Feb 4, 2005.

  1. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

    Jul 11, 2003
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    Real Name:
    Michael Elliott

    Bright Young Things


    Studio: New Line
    Year: 2003
    Rated: R
    Film Length: 105 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)
    Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DD Stereo Surround
    Subtitles: English, Spanish
    Retail Price: $19.95

    The film takes place in the 1930’s London as we follow a writer named Adam Fenwick-Symes (Stephen Campbell Moore) who has his new novel confiscated by customs but he sets out with his girlfriend to explore the celebrity part of the city. The local media is constantly hounding Adam and his youthful friends who have been dubbed the bright young things. Adam, wanting to marry his girlfriend but without his novel won’t have the money, goes out on a voyage with the bright young things trying to figure out life through the various parties of the rich and famous.

    Bright Young Things[/i] was written and directed by Stephen Fry who is best known for his acting skills in films such as Peter’s Friends, A Fish Called Wanda and for his narration of the recent Harry Potter films. Every once in a while a film will come my way that I can tell is wonderfully made yet it fails to get me involved in the story and that was certainly the case here. Visually speaking, Bright Young Things is a wonderful film to look at and it’s clear Fry and a very clear eye when it comes to bringing life to the screen. The biggest problem is that I sat through the film stone faced and didn’t laugh a single time, which is a major problem when you’re watching a comedy.

    I could probably go on a rant to why I didn’t laugh but I guess it boils done to the fact that comedy is a subjective thing and what one might laugh out could make another squirm. After watching the film I looked around the net for other opinions and it appears most people really enjoyed this film including Roger Ebert who gave it a very generous review. With all the positive reviews I can honestly say I agreed with everything they wrote except when it came to the talk of laughs, which is the one thing I didn’t take away from the film. I’m really split down the middle on this film because it probably deserves a recommendation and if people actually find it funny then I’m sure they’ll love every single second of the movie.

    Going back to what I enjoyed, the cinematography is what really stands out as the highlight to the film. Director Fry obviously had a certain look he wanted to create in the film and this is brought to life wonderfully in full detail. The film goes for a realistic look, which resorts in all sorts of strange lighting and some even stranger tinted scenes, which come off looking like a silent film. The opening sequence kicks right in at a local party where the screen is tinted red and the way all of this is captured really makes the viewer take notice. With all the visual style we also get a rocking jazz soundtrack, which really sets the party life up and makes for a swinging entertainment.

    The performances are all over the map and this is the one place where Fry could have done a better job. Stephen Campbell Moore and Emily Mortimer are two actors who I had never seen before and in all honesty, I’m really not sure if I care to see them again. The only thing they got right were the British accents but since they’re British I guess I shouldn’t give them any credit here. As a couple, the two share no chemistry and even on their own they don’t bring too much life to the film. Then there’s Dan Aykroyd who chews up more scenery here than he did in Neighbors and that’s saying a whole lot. Peter O’Toole and Stockard Channing are the only main stars who do justice to their roles but sadly neither have that big of a part.

    Bright Young Things kept me entertained enough to where I wouldn’t walk out on it but in reality this is a film I’ll never want to see again no matter how pretty it is. Having said all of that I have no doubt that many will enjoy this little sleeper but I reckon it will depend on your funny bone and how you react to all the situations. The film was based on the novel Vile Bodies, which some call the funniest book of its era.

    VIDEO---The movie is shown widescreen (1.78:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. As I stated in the review, this film has a very strange look that some might see and think the transfer is bad but after listening to the commentary there’s no doubt this is the intended look of the film. Some may find the look overly bright or lacking much facial tones but this is all correct so there’s no fault with the transfer here. As a transfer, New Line once again delivers a very nice release, which captures the look of the film without adding any print damage. The likes of speckles and scratches are no where to be seen, which I’m happy to report since the past couple of weeks have featured films from 2004 with tiny issues. Edge enhancement is very small and those viewing on a screen under fifty-inches probably won’t notice it. With the correct look for the film, the transfer does a very good job showing off the various colors used in the film. The previously mentioned party scene with its red tint really looks smashing due to all the detail and the black levels, which are hidden within the tint look. Skin tones also look very accurate in their faded nature. The use of overly bright lighting really takes out most of the facial color but again, this was intended.

    AUDIO---We get a Dolby Digital 5.1 track as well as a Dolby Stereo Surround track. The 5.1 track does a nice job for the type of film this is. There are mostly dialogue driven scenes and everything comes across very smoothly without any distortion or other audio problems. The dialogue is crystal clear throughout and packs a nice little punch with its sharp range. The Surrounds are basically used for the party scenes, which sound remarkably well. Whenever the soundtrack of jazz music kicks in you’ll really get a nice feel from it. The range of this is very well done and is mixed in perfectly whenever dialogue is also featured in the scene. English and Spanish subtitles are also included.

    EXTRAS---Up first is an audio commentary with writer/director Stephen Fry, which fans of the film should enjoy. Since I wasn’t too keen on the film I wasn’t too interested in the stories being told but fans will be happy to know that Fry is constantly talking about everything from the pre-production to the film’s eventual release. There are some interesting stories about alternate drafts of the screenplay and the stories on how he was able to get financing are fun. There are several moments where Fry just tells us what we’re seeing on the screen but most of the time he’s talkative about the things fans want to know. From the Bottom Up: The Making of Bright Young Things runs a whopping thirty-minutes and takes a look at the novel the film is based on as well as everything that went on during the production. Overall I found this piece a bit boring and there’s really no clear direction the thing is taken. Most of these featurettes only run seven minutes, which I use to feel was a bad thing but that might have been a good idea in the case of this film. We get interviews with the director but most of what he says is just a repeat from the commentary. We get some behind the scenes stuff with his directing cast members and there appear to be a few scenes that are a bit altered from how they are shown in the actual film. Stephen Fry: Director is a short, nine minute documentary on the director, which pretty much repeats everything from the first two extras. Here we learn why Fry wanted to start directing, what he learned from his friend directors and why this film was selected to be his first.

    OVERALL---While I really enjoyed the visual style and music in the film there just weren’t any laughs for me. I’m sure there are many people who really enjoyed this film so it’s hard for me not to recommend it if you enjoy this type of thing. New Line has delivered fans a pretty good disc, although the extras aren’t anything too special. The video and audio quality really shows off the look and sound of the film, which is the most important thing.

    Release Date: February 8th, 2005
  2. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

    Feb 12, 1998
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    For alternate takes on the film by people who enjoyed it, see the reviews in the Movies forum by Lew Crippen and Jason Seaver.

  3. Gary Palmer

    Gary Palmer Stunt Coordinator

    Jun 23, 2003
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    Sadly, New Line's version has been cropped from the theatrical 2.35 ratio, which isn't mentioned in many of the reviews. I can't imagine why this has happened in the US, since the film is available on disc in both the UK and Australia (and, presumbaly, everywhere else) in its original 2.35 ratio.

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