“Brideshead”: Pretty, Pleasant, Tepid


Re: the new “Brideshead Revisited” movie: I don’t agree with reviews like this, which speak of its “vomitous stupidity.” The adaptation, starring Emma Thompson as a gargoyle-lite Lady Marchmain, has a visual splendor that makes it an agreeable way to spend a hot summer afternoon. Its scenes of the Marchmain manor are enjoyably grand, even if the movie does use the same location as the 1981 TV “Brideshead.” And the new version’s scenes in Venice, with a droll Michael Gambon as Lord Marchmain, were so splendiferous they made me want to hop the nearest plane to Italy. The film’s ending, however, while not unfaithful to Evelyn Waugh’s novel, was disappointing; it involves the narrator (played in 1981 by Jeremy Irons and here by Matthew Goode) contemplating a Catholicism that feels unbelievable given what has occurred in the rest of the story. Usually, I’m a stickler for literary fidelity, but in this instance the snuffing-out of a highly symbolic candle would have made more sense.

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