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IN SHORT: A fine adaptation and a good sit. [Rated PG-13. minutes]
Once upon a time, the name MIRAMAX above the title meant exquisite and beautiful adaptations of literary classics. The kinds of films that were guaranteed to win brownie points for us gents who would never pay hard cash to sit through 'em, unless there was a great date at our side. Somewhere along the line, Miramax started to go commercial and the quality slipped and the adequate adaptations that hit the screen were just, well, adequate.
Welcome back Miramax. We are speaking as a middle class American guy who really has no interest in the trials and tribulations of pre-WWII English Catholics featured in this adaptation of Brideshead Revisited. [femme friends of ours, on the other hand, nearly melted where they stood when I mentioned I was off to screen this film. Note to self: next time take a date...]
Given that we make no comparison to the Source Material, which we managed to avoid reading in college, we';re pleased to report that this adaptation stands on its own feet and, from the breeder male POV, is a perfectly sit-able story. For those on dateflicks, the guys may wince going in but they shouldn't be complaining on the way out. (Not only will you score sensitivity points with your dates, the story is worth the sit. So there!)
The location is Britain. Those who ignored history should know that Henry VIII turned the country Protestant during his reign when the pope wouldn't approve a divorce from one of his wives. Catholics, even in the 1920s, are a minority. In this case, the money controlled by the catholic family you will meet is old beyond belief. Just like many of the manors and castles in Great Britain.
The "hero" of this tale is young Charles Ryder (Matthew Goode), raised in the Church of England but an avowed atheist. Charles is the son of a neglectful and emotionally vacant father (Patrick Malahide) who cares not one whit for anything his son is about to undertake. Father is far too entranced with the game of chess, which he plays against himself on one of those boards with a built in turntable. Young Ryder is off to higher education at the college at Oxford, where he is warned during his campus orientation to "avoid the sodomites". Hard to do when one of the same drunken louts heaves his fish 'n' chips and alcoholic what have you through your dorm window. or something.
So begins a friendship of apologies between Ryder and the limp-wristed Sebastian (Ben Whishaw). We're being careful with our description. There are other now stereotypical gay affectations that come screaming off the screen (and we do mean that one) so let us just label Sebastian and his crowd "exuberant" and leave it at that. At the end of what we think is year one, Charles is invited to a short visit at Sebastian's manor homestead called Brideshead, home to his glamorous, very old moneyed aristocratic Roman Catholic family.
There Charles is welcomed by the matriarch of the manor, Lady Marchmain (Emma Thompson), whose cold gaze could destroy and whose perception of her son's problem is not what you'd think. The Lady is either blind to, or deliberately turns a blind eye to, what should be obvious to all. So we think. Then again, the presentation of things homosexual was quite different in the 1920s and 1930s. We guess. As for Lord Marchmain (Michael Gambon), he lives in Venice with his mistress. There will be a brief road trip but one of little consequence to the over arching story.
Lady Marchmain extends an invitation to stay the entire summer, hoping that Charles' friendship will win Sebastian back from the dark side -- which, to her, is his excess drinking and partying -- Charles' eye, unfortunately for Sebastian, is caught by young sister Julia (Hayley Atwell).
Brideshead Revisited is classic classic. No one wins (though we can't vouch for the weepiness effect of this film. Not enough paired up females in the screening room to help us make a judgment.) For Charles, the end of summer means the end of a doomed but life-changing love affair. We're not revealing which way he ultimately swings.
We stand by our initial reaction. Teens aren't going near Brideshead Revisited. Adults should. It is a very well made film, and very easy to sit for even if you really would rather be watching football. or anything else. On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Brideshead Revisited, he would have paid . . .
Gotta give appropriate props. Acting, adaptation, runtime -- all get the thumbs up from us.
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