26 August 2008

Brideshead Revisited, Visited

At the chalet with my sister-in-law, mom and the kidlets. We have not been able to pry E away from the water. If we are at hanging at the chalet she wants to be in the hot tub, and if we go out, she just wants to be at one of the pools. That kid is a water baby. As it turns out, her little brother may be as well. Mom and Joy put him in the hot tub yesterday and I guess he was in heaven. He likes to do a little splashing. Good for him.

But that is not primarily why I'm here, because I know that most of you don't need the daily E & H report. I'm here to talk about the fact that, once Joy got the kids down for the night, we headed into Bend to see Brideshead Revisited. Joy is a big fan of the British costume drama, so she's the perfect date for a film like this. Add to that the fact that no one else in the Bend/Redmond area felt the need to see this film at 10 pm on a Monday night, and you have the set up for a good time. We were alone in the theatre and could talk all we wanted through it (also I was not horribly embarrassed when I knocked over a box of plain M & Ms and they scattered all over the floor during a particularly tense moment in the film. Although Joy did laugh at me for about 10 minutes.).

I'm going to confess that I have only ever read one Evelyn Waugh novel, and that is Handful of Dust. If you have read Handful of Dust (or seen the absolutely ridiculous 1988 film version with Kristin Scott Thomas, James Wilby and Rupert Graves), you may understand why I stopped there. It is, in my opinion, a profoundly stupid story.

But now I want to read Brideshead.

Let me back up. For those of you who do not know the story, Brideshead Revisted is about a young man--Charles (Matthew Goode)--with desires to become an artist, who gets sent up to Oxford to read History. He meets a rich, charismatic, gay (and Catholic, as it turns out) fellow student--Sebastian Flyte (Ben Wishaw)--who takes him to his huge country house, Brideshead. Charles falls in love with the house, it's vast collection of mostly Italian and Catholic-themed art, and the wine cellar. Oh, and he sort of develops a thing for Sebastian's sister Julia (Hayley Atwell, who is beautifully curvy. Side note--I think that it takes away from sex scenes when an actress is so tiny and fragile looking that you spend the whole time worrying about the fact that the other actor is going to crush her to death. And yes, I'm thinking specifically of Keira Knightley in Atonement. I mean, broken hips just aren't sexy.). Meanwhile, Sebastian clearly is falling in love with Charles. There is no sex, but lots and lots of British sexual tension. YAY! So far, this is all sort of conventional--even a little predictable.

Anyhoo. Sebastian and Julia's scary uber-Catholic mother (Emma Thompson) makes certain demands of Charles regarding his friendship with her son, and sends the whole love triangle to Italy. (Clearly she had never read Forester, or James, or any other English novels of the period. Or she would have known that this could only end badly . . . ) But in many ways, this is less of a conventional love triangle story, and more of a story about belief--religious beliefs, beliefs about oneself, beliefs about others. And, maybe even more than that, it is about the doubt that accompanies those beliefs. The most interesting relationship in the film is the one between Charles and Lady Flyte--because it functions both on the level of a personal relationship, and one in which both people involved stand for a particular set of beliefs and worldviews. There is tension between those two levels of interaction.

Here is why I feel like I have to read the novel now: the film suggests very complicated ideas about these issues, but doesn't explore them in a way that I found totally satisfying. The ending felt open-ended to me in a way that made me wonder if the book actually does a better job of philosophizing. I want to see if there is more, well, direct discussion of this tension, or if the book leaves most of that discussion to the plot itself. (As the film does.) I will let you know. It's on my reading list now.

Two other necessary, but slightly less weighty comments--I can't NOT mention the fact that Matthew Goode is extraordinarily good looking. He also is a pretty subtle actor. Or maybe he can't act. I'd like to see what else he is going to do before I decide. But he is a beautiful, beautiful man. As my sister-in-law pointed out, he really grows on you too. At first you just think, "that's a hot man," but as the film progresses, he becomes sort of unbelievably hot. Good for him!

Second. There is a small part, played by character actor Patrick Malahide, of Charles' father. I'm not going to characterize this part, because it is small, but delightful, and I don't want to give anything about it away. But Joy and I agreed that he was one of our favorite elements of the film.


James said...

I love Matthew Goode! I saw him in an awful movie called Imagine Me & You, which he is great in, but the movie is unbelievably terrible and I don't suggest you watch it. Anyway, I've waited a couple of years for him to be in a good movie, and then it turns out he's going to be in the Watchmen! Exciting! Although according to IMDB he was in something called "Bounty Hamster," so maybe he's been in good things before, and I just didn't know.

I need to put Bounty Hamster in my queue!

edith loves said...

hahahahhahahahahahahhahaha! omg...it makes me so happy to know there's a film out there called "Bounty Hamster." That's almost as fabulous a depression-lifter as the tiny pig in wellingtons: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1025428/Pig-Boots-The-worlds-porker-afraid-mud.html

also, kristen, we on the east coast have formulated a nickname for miss knightley: keira "the clavicle" knightley. i'm fairly sure her clavicles have punctured the skin of many a leading man.