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Immediately before the war, the bright young things - as the ever intrusive press dub them - of the English upper class live a life of party, party, party. It's sex, drugs, and .... the Charlston. Adam (Stephen Campbell Moore), one of the well bred group but completely broke, is hoping to marry Nina (Emily Mortimer). Every time he seems about to find the money to do so, he is thwarted by fate, while his friends are sinking further into the abyss of a whirl of parties and frolics. They shock the older generation with their jazz, their speed and their recklessness. But the day of reckoning is nigh ...

Review by Louise Keller:
Now on DVD, Stephen Fry's fast, playful and captivating film exudes the vibrancy of Moulin Rouge with the rhythms of The Cat's Meow. It's a more enticing title than Evelyn Waugh's novel, Vile Bodies, which actor, writer, comedian and now Fry has adapted into a splendid screenplay, capturing the essence of the era and the characters.

Fry has chosen a visually rich and emotionally dense story for his directing debut, exploring the shallow, glamorous and fickle world of celebrity that sits like frothy icing on a melting pot of concealed emotions.

Set in the 20s and 30s, we meet a group of beautiful people caught up in the privileged circle of society, where life is but one party after another. They are young, idle and come from rich families, but lack any idea of the real value of money, other than it is unheard of to be without it.

Early in the film, the question is asked: 'Are you a butterfly or a bee? Do you flit around or make honey?' Our central character Adam is a bee, but he is in love with a Nina, who is a butterfly, and without the promise of the payment for his completed but now Customs-confiscated novel, the love affair is an uncertain one. Nina never dares to admit, even to herself, that she loves Adam, and as for love-making - 'I'd rather go to a dentist... but might get fond of 'love' in time... like olives.'

It's a whirlwind of decadence, as the social butterflies drink from decanters, snort cocaine as a matter of course, dress in outlandish clothes, and behave like the spoilt rich kids they are, prompting a feeding frenzy to the media vultures. But the real vultures are the insatiable public, which hungers for any sensational tid-bits to fill the gossip columns.

Yes, Waugh's sentiments about celebrity and the media have not lost their relevance one little bit, and we can read the parallels. A hand-picked and delectable ensemble cast - many from theatre backgrounds - make this lively and highly colourful tale amusing and compulsive viewing. Stephen Campbell Moore and Emily Mortimer make an irresistible couple as the on-again, off-again lovers, while a string of top talents like Fenella Woolgar, Stockard Channing, Dan Ayckroyd, John Mills and Simon Callow are excellent. Jim Broadbent's drunken major (and general) whose intermittent appearances are of the utmost anticipation, is most entertaining, but the real scene stealer is Peter O'Toole, whose turn as the eccentric Colonel Blount is unforgettable.

There's plenty of bite below the froth, and visually, the film is a treat with its plush costumes and extravagant settings. This is a magnet of a film - you can't help but be drawn to it.

'Stephen Fry is the kindest man that ever walked this earth'; 'he's very good with actors'; 'he's very nice and very, very, very clever - a great man'.... These are some of the things the actors say about Stephen Fry in a 10 minute DVD featurette about the director. From the perspective of production runner and driver Shane Murray comes a different kind of behind-the-scenes feature. We follow him around as he talks to the casting agent, the voice coach and we even get to sit in on a gathering of principal cast as they talk about breathing techniques and sounds. Of course if you are a Stephen Fry fan, the audio commentary is mandatory.

Published July 22, 2004

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(UK, 2003)

CAST: Stephen Campbell Moore, Emily Mortimer, Fenella Woolgar, Jim Broadbent, Peter O'Toole, Dan Aykroyd, James McAvoy, Stockard Channing, David Tennant, Michael Sheen, Guy Henry, Simon Callow, John Mills

DIRECTOR: Stephen Fry

SCRIPT: Stephen Fry (novel Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh)

RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes


SPECIAL FEATURES: Behind the Scenes features, audio commentary

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video

DVD RELEASE: July 14, 2004

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