Brideshead Revisited

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Posted August 7, 2008 in Film

Someday, England will run out of Great Novels to compress into two manicured hours, and the refined tyranny Merchant Ivory begought will sputter out and collapse, making room for a whole new crop of flicks that showcase more of the Brits than their cravats and shrubs. Until that blessed day when a new Michael Caine will be freed to emerge, Anglophiles could do worse than lounge through director Julian Jarrold’s sexed-up and simplified take on the 1945 Evelyn Waugh whopper about a middle-class lad named Charles (Matthew Ryder) who falls in with a family of rich, secretive Catholics. Siblings Sebastian (a vulnerable and bossy Ben Whishaw) and Julia (Hayley Atwell) vie passive-aggressively for Charles’ affections; more direct is their mother (Emma Thompson) who considers the outsider too average—and worse—too atheist for their inner circle. For titillation and drama, Jeremy Brock and Andrew Davies’ script amps up the latent homosexuality Waugh left between the lines (though some scholars argue the subtext is a modern reinvention). Purists would argue the novel about class and religious conflict between the World Wars has been tawdrily reduced to a lust triangle. Mooning audiences might counter that’s the best part. A tepid trifle groomed into an event, it’s just one more classic scratched off the list. (Amy Nicholson)

 


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