Friday, July 25, 2008

Brideshead Revisited Bores

One complaint about animated children's films is that they are cinema length advertisements for dolls, T-shirts, video games, toys, trips to Disneyland, food products, sneakers, and anything else that parents are willing to spend their hard earned shekels on in order to please their grasping brood. In contrast, I feel that an adult film that is based on a book is successful if it makes the viewer want to go out, buy the book, and read it. I recently had just such an experience with the Golden Compass. The movie was not the best I'd ever seen, but I was intrigued enough by the film to want to read the Pullman Series.

Which leads to my point.

Brideshead Revisited makes me want to burn the book.

Funny, because I never read the book. I've read other Waugh books and this one is a butchery.

I twisted. I turned. I wiggled in my seat and prayed for it to end. I can't remember the last time I hated a movie so much. I can't call it a bomb, because it isn't a bomb. It has high production values and Albert Finney. It doesn't suck necessarily because the acting is poor (save for the actress who plays Julia who is a mediocre actress playing a bad character). Rather, it sucks because it is a poor adaption of a novel that is satiric, a chance to make fun of the upper classes and their pretensions. Waugh is usually quite funny to read. Brideshead Revisited 2008 is serious and takes itself too seriously.

The worst part of the film is the terrible development of Charles Ryder as a character. Ryder at first, in theory, is a complex character with many competing motivations -- his infatuation with both Sebastian and Julia, his infatuation with the aristocratic life he discovers, and his distaste for Catholicism and committed atheism. I could ascertain how Waugh handled these matters, including one of the climactic scenes when Ryder an avowed atheist sees the family praying at the bed of their father -- how absurd it must have looked to him and how alien. But in the film, Ryder comes up empty. Rather than identifying with his conflicting motivations, I found myself wishing he'd simply jump off the beautiful balcony and end it all there and shorten the film a bit.

Seriously, though, for a story that must capture the inner struggle of the protagonists' infatuations and his own belief system, it was poorly developed and poorly introduced. This could have been a much better film if it had emphasized different aspects of the novel and the characters. Despite the rave reviews I noticed by a few notable critics, I have to give this film a resounding yawn of disapproval. Don't bother. Support literature and read the book instead.

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