This stylish, satirical and thoughtful movie is about people not worth thinking about. Bright Young Things takes us to London in the Thirties. The wealthy, bored young spawn of the upper crust float languidly from party to party, keeping the dawn at bay and amusing each other with their brittleness and wit. We're in the middle of high society, "that uneasy alliance of bright young things and old survivors."
Adam Fenwick-Symes (Stephen Campbell Moore) wants to be a writer, hasn't a penny, but whose friends are all among the "things." He loves Nina Blount (Emily Mortimer), a young woman who would rather be bored and rich than bored and poor. (She finally marries a very boring, aristocratic young man, Ginger Littlejohn, who is rich. "Oh, darling," she says to Adam, "if only you were as rich as Ginger...or even half as rich.")
Throughout the movie Adam finds himself in situations where he comes close to money and loses it, whether it's gambling in a hotel which has wonderfully loose morals to working as Mr. Chatterbox, a gossip columnist for a press lord. His friends are fun and stylish, but also shallow, condescending and oblivious to any feelings except their own. "You bloody people," one person finally says to them, "Who the bloody hell do you think you are?" As the Thirties pass into the 1939 invasion of Poland and Britain's declaration war, the parties stop. Bad things happen and real life takes over. But eventually Adam and Nina find their way together -- spoiler ahead! -- without money.
Bright Young Things has great style and dialogue, and the story keeps moving. It was based on Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies. The characters are superficial but after a while you get to know them. I wouldn’t care especially to be friends with any of them, but a round of martinis might be fun. Occasionally it’s satisfying to see food I can’t afford cause food poisoning among those who can afford.
There are first-rate actors portraying these bright young things, including Michael Sheen as Miles, a wealthy young queen, and Fenella Woolgar as Agatha Runciple, a young woman without a reflective thought in her head. There are also wonderful performances by some well-known names in smaller parts: Jim Broadbent as an alcoholic colonel who shows up several times, Jim Carter as a filth-hating customs supervisor, Peter O'Toole as a balmy aristocrat who isn't as eccentric as he appears, Simon Callow as the deposed king of Anatolia, and John Mills in a brief but funny bit as an old aristocrat at a party who mistakes a sniff of cocaine for a sniff of snuff.