Brideshead Revisited aka the joys of subtext in British costume dramas


Brideshead Revisited (UK, 2008)

Seen: Monday, 6th April 2009 (cinema)
Runtime: 133′
Director: Julian Jarrold
Cast: Matthew Goode, Hayley Atwell, Patrick Malahide, Ben Whishaw, Emma Thompson, Michael Gambon
Production House: 2 Entertain, BBC Films, Ecosse Films, HanWay Films, Screen Yorkshire, UK Film Council
Plot: England in the early 20th century. The story of Charles Ryder, a wannabe painter from a poor family, who gets involved with an aristocratic family.

Scene from the Film
Was looking for something that would convey the humour of it, but couldn’t find anything *sigh* In case you prefer to see the trailer then it’s in my film spotting post.

Impressions In Short
I love Ben Whishaw, I’m not that keen on Matthew Goode and the film was ok ;) The dialogues in the first half were hilarious.

More About the Film
Me and Kin rather enjoyed ourselves (at least certainly for the first half of the film, the second is not as good). As usual, we were laughing when everyone else stayed quiet :] But, hey, it was funny - it’s just that everyone else didn’t get it ;-P
I admit the humour was a little hidden, but that was the beauty of it. The dialogues were very layered - in the first half pretty much everything they say has more than one meaning. Patrick Malahide, who played Charles’ father, was particularly good at unlocking the humour in his lines (even some of the rest of the audience got it) and in this way made a very small part into something much more substantial.
I’ve been reassured that Ben Whishaw is someone whose career I want to follow (he was pretty much the only element of Perfume: The Story of a Murderer that I really liked, but that was the only time I saw him). He was great as Sebastian and also one of the actors who managed to unlock some very strange humour out of his lines. He was great with the drama too in case you’re wondering.
The gay theme was fun (but then I generally like gay themes - I’m sure my regular readers must have noticed this by now ;-P) and the story was engaging (I’m quite curious what the novel is like - seems like the people who read the novel are quite disappointed with the film).
It all sort of went down hill in the second half though. Charles gets much more interested in Sebastian’s sister than in Sebastian and the story becomes soppy. It doesn’t help that the love story is between the two characters that I least liked watching on screen (I didn’t like either of the performances that much). Also, the dialogues stopped being that edgy. And the Catholic theme gets a lot more prominence. While I have nothing against the Catholic theme in principle (as a plot point it’s fine), I thought they didn’t do a particularly good job of it in the film. It might be me and my own experiences of Polish Catholicism (I don’t know how well it translates to English Catholicism), but I felt like that way of thinking and the religion itself was totally foreign and exotic to the actors. It was scripted fine, but the performances… there was something fake in that. It didn’t matter so much at the beginning when there’s less focus on it, but eventually it got to me.

Er… I don’t think this is a must-see, but it’s not terrible either. If you like costume dramas with good and large British casts then I guess this might be worth seeing for you.

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