Does Stephen Fry’s Adaptation Vile Bodies Live up to Expectations?

In 2003, Stephen Fry’s adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s novel Vile Bodies was released on the silver screen. The screenplay provides us with a look at the lives and loves of young and carefree London aristocrats and bohemians, along with society in general, during the late 1920s through to the early 1940s.

The film marks the screenwriting and directorial debut of Stephen Fry, with the assistant director, Stephen Fry’s sister Jo Crocker, who made her debut in television. It was the last film for John Mills who briefly appears in a non-speaking role of an elderly party goer enthralled by the effects of cocaine.

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We’re introduced to the party monsters, the dirty pretty things, the beautiful and the damned. We get to watch gilded youths dancing the night away, downing bottles of Cristal and partaking of the white powder.

Adam Symes is the hero of the piece, and is played by Stephen Campbell Moore. The story starts when this aspiring novelist has his novel confiscated at Dover. This leads him to be concerned that he will be unable to marry the captivating Nina Blout, who is played by Emily Mortimer. In an attempt to get some money he starts gambling at a hotel run by Lottie Crump. He’s lucky enough to win, but his money is a little harder to get his hands on. Even money promised by his potential father-in-law doesn’t materialise. Feeling sorry for himself he feels he only has one option and that’s to go to work for Lord Monomark, a Canadian newspaper mogul, as a gossip columnist. Monomark is played by Dan Aykroyd. However, not keen to report of the lives and loves of his chums he makes up a series of characters to report on.

Of course, this ruse is uncovered and he’s given the sack. His prospective wife decides to marry someone else and he gives up on romance. He promises to stop pursuing Nina if her new husband pays off his debts.

The plot of this movie doesn’t really matter as it’s the characters that are the focus and to look at what’s happening to them all through the eyes of Adam the observer and participant. We’re not meant to feel sorry for them but there are some excellent performances from the cast. There are also some amusing cameos from Peter O’Toole, Imelda Staunton, John Mills and Stokard Channing. Even Stephen Fry gets in on the act with a very small part as a chauffeur.