28 August 2008

Review: Brideshead Revisited

Genre: Drama

Brideshead Revisited, the canonical tale about the changing British society of the interbellic period in England, receives its second cinematic treatment this year, in this Andrew-Davies--Jeremy-Brock adaptation of the classic Waugh text. Spooling from two such pens, which have previously urged out the charming Mrs. Brown (1997) and The Last King of Scotland (2006) & the quirky but endearing Bridget Jones's Diary (2001), the tale, one would expect, should be nothing less than the equally charming and endearing play as those that have preceded it - and, in truth, the charm evident in its design does shine through the film in the gifts of some few locations - but, somehow, under the mastering hand of director Julian Jarrold, who previously bedraggled the what-may-have-possibly-been-charming-once Becoming Jane (2007), the film slumps and sloughs & erodes its luxe veneer in a way that is all too intolerable in the mindset and the cadence of the message of the tale. A resultant chock-a-block stew of the "high points" of Mr. Waugh's cherished work - due in large part to a "Chopsticks"-style editing job done by Mr. C. Gill - Brideshead Revisted (2007) fails to live up to the graceful magniloquence that so aptly characterized and described its original edition. Short where it should be decadent, shrifty where it should be smooth, the new film clutches Charles Ryder where it should let him train on, not as a prisoner of his circumstances, but rather as a partner to them. Abating those events and characters that contribute so handily to his mise-en-scène confusions, it does little to implicate Charles in his own actions, but makes him seem rather bedazzled instead by them all and by his surroundings, bedazzled as though stunned and then sent tumbling by the impact through the dazy and harrowing situations that befall him. And, though - true - such a languorous recapitulation of the first edition, that would remend such passivity in the story's filmic design, as that which was provided by the eminent BBC in 1981, is not at 13 hours in length well suited for the work's début on the silver screen and though - true - such a recapitulation may verily moreover lie on the other end of the spectrum, as an adaptation in need of a more aggressive editor; more needed to be done to honorably communicate the fullness of Mr. Ryder's story, in not only its highlights, but its bellows as well.
To compliment the film though, there were two unfaltering redemptions of its origin's beauty: (1) Elmer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh's gorgeous, embellished-period costumes and (2) Matthew Goode's tempering, high-wire, gentleman's performance that manages to depress the prickly jabs of editing around him enough to draw the viewer in and ask him to forgive and forget the all-too-severous hand that jars him.

Grade: C

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