Brideshead Revisited

Rated NR

There’s nothing more English than class-envy and homosexuality, and Brideshead has those mixed in with the rigorous terrors of the religious life, an unflattering portrait of North Americans as boorish boobs, and the prettiest house anyone has ever been sodomized in. The story follows lower-middle-class Charles Ryder (Matthew Goode) as he discovers the magnificent Brideshead estate through his erotic friendship with Sebastian Flyte (Ben Whishaw), then through his connection to Sebastian’s conniving mother, Lady Marchmain (Emma Thompson), and Sebastian’s amorous sister Julia (Hayley Atwell). The funny parts are funny, and the moving parts in the second half are moving, but the whole thing has a highly condensed feel to it, perhaps because of the influence of the 11-hour television version from the early ’80s. But it’s sumptuously and smartly photographed, and Thompson is perfect. Still, it would probably have been better to turn it into a series of seven films, and maybe have it set in a school for magic.

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