("Match Point") plays Charles Ryder, an upper-middle-class student with artistic ambitions about to leave his home and disinterested father (Patrick Malahide
"Billy Elliot") and go off to Oxford. At the university, he meets a childlike aesthete Lord Sebastian Flyte (Ben Wisher
"Perfume: The Story of a Murderer"), and they become fast friends. Their closeness brings Ryder into contact with the other members of Sebastian's family, whose ancestral home is the magnificent Brideshead castle. Invited by Sebastian to visit the estate, he soon meets Sebastian's imperious, religiously dogmatic mother Lady Marchmain (Emma Thompson
"Sense and Sensibility"); his stiffly, proper older brother, Lord Brideshead (Ed Stoppard
"The Pianist"); and his two sisters, the beautiful Lady Julia (Hayley Atwell
"Cassandra's Dream") and young, cocky Lady Cordelia (Felicity Jones
"Flashbacks of a Fool").
When Lady Marchmain extends an invitation to Charles to stay at the estate for the entire summer, she hopes that Charles' friendship will win Sebastian back from his drinking and partying, but unfortunately for Sebastian, Charles is taken with his sister Julia, and spends his time longing for a moment alone with her. When Charles goes on a trip to Venice with Sebastian and Julia, he meets their father, Lord Marchmain (Michael Gambon
"The Omen"), who left Brideshead, and his wife, years earlier and is now living with his mistress Cara (Greta Scacchi
"The Player"). It also furthers Charles' romantic quest for Julia, while Sebastian's jealousy over the budding romance causes even further problems.
Directed by Julian Jarrold
("Kinky Boots") the film adapted from the Evelyn Waugh novel is basically a generic period movie about lovely country estates and British class issues. The presence of God and faith, and the effect that this faith has on an avowed atheist, is the basis for most of its drama. Religion plays an unbelievably large role in this underwhelming but ultimately compelling story of personal beliefs, which prove to be the only thing more powerful than money. The biggest problem with the film is that it's hard to like any of the characters, and if you don't like the people, it's hard to like the movie. Still, if you can forget your memories of the best selling novel or the outstanding 1981 miniseries that ran for 11 weeks on Public Television (with a memorable cast including Jeremy Irons, Claire Bloom
and Sir Laurence Olivier
), this tasteful, though lifeless version might just be your cup of tea.