- Director:Julian Jarrold
- Cast:Hayley Atwell, Michael Gambon, Anna Madeley, Matthew Goode Ryder, Emma Thompson, Ben Whishaw
- Release Date:October 23, 2008
- Running time:133 minutes
- Film Worth:$14.00
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“The look and feel is just about right…”
You could say that director Julian Jarrold (Kinky Boots) was foolhardy to return to Evelyn Waugh's classic novel, which had been made into such a memorable British TV series in the 1980s. Brideshead Revisited remains Evelyn Waugh's magnum opus, and it deals in a big sweeping way with the profound changes to the English class system during and after WW2.
Waugh had been a bright middle class youth and, like his hero Charles Ryder (Matthew Goode), he had gone to Oxford and fallen under the spell of a decadent Catholic landed family. How could you not when their country seat is the truly beautiful Castle Howard? In fact, the director found it impossible to find a better suited stately home, and so revisits the same set as the TV series...and what a setting it is.
As the tale is told mostly in flashback, it is imbued with a longing for that pre-lapsarian world before love is betrayed and where the practice of elegant imbibing is yet to turn into sad alcoholism. The most cogent element from the 1981 television adaptation was the gay relationship between the bisexual (or just opportunistic) Charles and the effete young Sebastian (Ben Whishaw, who keeps the character on the right side of camp parody), who iconically carries a teddy bear called Aloysius. Some of that flannelled charm and seductiveness has been reproduced here, but the film is as much about Charles' doomed love for Sebastian's sister Julia (the excellent Hayley Atwell). Emma Thompson plays to her sterner side in the key role of the manipulative mother of the siblings. The look and feel is just about right, and the dialogue and acting are enjoyably sharp. This new version of the classic deserves a fair hearing in its own right.