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Last Updated: Sunday, 28 September, 2003, 16:53 GMT 17:53 UK
Fry's splendid Bright Young Things
by Ian Youngs
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Bright Young Things, the first film directed by comedian Stephen Fry, has a UK Royal Gala première on Sunday.

Stephen Fry
This was the first time in the director's chair for Fry
Being a successful comedian, actor, writer, quiz show host and all-round bon viveur would be enough for some people.

But Stephen Fry has now also proved himself a talented film-maker - both writing the script for Bright Young Things, adapted from Evelyn Waugh's book Vile Bodies, and directing it.

The film is a hugely enjoyable sojourn into the hedonistic upper-class 1920s party set that Waugh laid bare.

Click here to review the film yourself

Fry wants to show us that things have not changed much since the days when the gossip columns were obsessed with the parties and scandals of the social group they called the "bright young things".

So it is not a period piece, and the party set throws off the shackles off the Victorian era and embraces a feelgood, carefree attitude that is recognisable today.

Stephen Campbell Moore and Emily Mortimer
Bright young stars: Stephen Campbell Moore and Emily Mortimer
At the centre of this group are two of the more well-rounded young things - Adam Symes and Nina Blount.

They are posh but penniless and hopelessly in love - and surrounded by unhinged, one-sided and entertaining caricatures of gallivanting gadabouts.

Adam, a struggling author, is played by Stephen Campbell Moore, a promising newcomer in his first screen role.

And Nina, his fiancée, is played by Emily Mortimer, who has appeared in a string of Britflicks but rarely radiated like this.

The theme running through the story is their attempts to raise money to get married - which always seem to go wrong - punctuated by nightly parties and pleasure-seeking exploits.

Among the other bright young things is the fantastically dotty Agatha, played by Fenella Woolgar in her first major role - heralding her as a probable bright young star.

All the main young characters are played by relative unknowns, but many familiar faces regularly pop up around them.

Jim Broadbent
Jim Broadbent plays a man known only as "the drunk major"
Dan Aykroyd plays an American press baron while Jim Broadbent is fantastic as an old duffer who is only ever referred to as "the drunk major".

Another comic duffer is Peter O'Toole, as Nina's slightly loopy but rich father, while Simon Callow plays a dotty deposed European monarch.

Fry even gives himself a cameo as a chauffeur but Sir John Mills, 95, steals the show as a cocaine-snorting society gent.

The film is both a social comedy - in which we laugh at these exaggerated characters and what they get up to - and an effective love story, with both halves working well.

Waugh takes the credit for the story, of course, but 1920s literary adaptations are notoriously tricky and Fry has pulled it off with wit and sensitivity.

Bright Young Things opens across the UK on Friday.

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