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Julian Jarrold
Emma Thompson, Matthew Goode, Ben Whishaw, Hayley Atwell, Patrick Malahide, Richard Teverson, Thomas Morrison, Anna Madeley
Writing Credits:
Andrew Davies, Jeremy Brock, Evelyn Waugh (novel)

Love is not ours to control.

Inspired by the best-selling novel, Brideshead Revisited is a riveting drama of love, power and betrayal, featuring stunning performances by Academy Award winner Emma Thompson and Matthew Goode. When the charming aristocrat Sebastian invites Charles Ryder to his family's estate, Charles becomes seduced by the opulent lifestyle of the Marchmain family, and by Julia, Sebastian's sister. As their romance deepens, repercussions follow, and Charles discovers that at Brideshead, love, money and power come at a price. It's a spellbinding story you'll want to revisit again and again.

Box Office:
$20 million.
Opening Weekend
$339.616 thousand on 33 screens.
Domestic Gross
$6.414 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 2.40:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Closed-captioned Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 133 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 1/13/2009

• Audio Commentary with Director Julian Jerrold, Producer Kevin Loader and Screenwriter Jeremy Brock
• “The World of Brideshead” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Sneak Peeks


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Brideshead Revisited (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 12, 2009)

Already well known as a 1981 mini-series, another adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited emerged in 2008. Set mostly in the 1920s, the story concentrates on young Oxford University student Charles Ryder (Matthew Goode). Though not a wealthy lad, he gets to see how the other half lives via his aristocratic new pal Sebastian Flyte (Ben Whishaw).

This leads Charles on a trek to Brideshead, a vast, luxurious 18th century estate owned by Sebastian’s family. During the visit, Charles becomes smitten with Sebastian’s sister Julia (Hayley Atwell). Problems ensue, some due to Sebastian’s jealously and some from the controlling nature of Sebastian’s mother Lady Marchmain (Emma Thompson).

Normally I avoid this kind of examination of the British class system “stiff upper lip” drama like the plague. Why’d I decide to give Brideshead a look? Boredom, to be honest. January is a dead time of the year for DVD releases, so I have time to check out titles I normally would skip. This one of the few semi-appealing new discs on my desk, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

And I’m glad I did. While I can’t say that Brideshead differs from the milieu I expected, it creates a more entertaining experience than I anticipated. This kind of material usually drags, but Brideshead manages to move along at a fairly zippy pace.

That comes with a minor price. One of my only problems with Brideshead stems from the inevitable abridgement necessary to reduce a 368-page novel into a 133-minute movie. Obviously the 11-hour mini-series could better explore characters and situations, whereas the film must cut things to the bone.

This means the 2008 Brideshead often seems abbreviated. Since I never read the novel or saw the mini-series, I can’t cite alterations or cuts, but I do know that the 2008 flick feels like it’s been pared down quite a bit. Situations and scenarios go by more quickly than we might like, and a general “Cliff’s Notes” impression remains.

Despite that issue, Brideshead still becomes a satisfying piece. A lot of the praise goes to the script for the understated way in which it delivers character and story exposition. Take the film’s depiction of Charles’ father, for instance. We get scant few glimpses of the man, but they give us all we need without clumsy or cheesy dialogue.

This trend continues with all the personalities. We sense Charles’ ambitions, but the movie avoids the usual obvious machinations. Instead, Charles presents an undercurrent of ambition but it stays largely beneath the surface.

Lady Marchmain provides another well-depicted character. One might expect a venomous dominatrix for this sort of personality, but she never turns into the usual cruel ice queen. Marchmain exhibits a subtle domineering tone, but she doesn’t turn into a cartoon villain.

Of all the characters, only Sebastian threatens to turn into a stereotype. Whislaw plays him as awfully fey and fragile; it takes us about five seconds to determine his homosexuality, and Sebastian never quite rises above these somewhat stereotypical roots. I don’t know if this accurately reflects the source material or if the movie’s creators opted for such a swishy Sebastian, but he does present the most one-dimensional of the film’s participants. Not that I’d deem the character or the performance to be truly one-dimensional, however; he’s just the least full-blooded of an otherwise rich cast.

Because the film pares the novel to the minimum, that leaves us with little more than a standard love triangle. Granted, it comes with a bit of a twist since a gay affair is part of it, but it still fails to rise above the basic triangle. To my surprise, this rudimentary plot doesn’t harm the movie. Indeed, it may focus our involvement with the characters even more than a grander story might. We get so much from them that they become quite full and dynamic.

This adaptation of Brideshead occasionally struggles against its own restrictions, as it feels like it wants to break out of the restrictions that come with its abbreviated nature. Nonetheless, these turn into a minor criticism. The movie follows its basic story in a concise, involving manner that allows it to prosper.

The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

Brideshead Revisited appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The movie boasted a very positive transfer.

Sharpness did well for itself. Only the slightest smidgen of softness ever appeared, as the majority of the movie exhibited strong clarity and delineation. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, though some light to moderate edge enhancement appeared. Source flaws remained absent.

Period flicks tend to go with stylized hues, and that was true of Brideshead. It usually favored a muted golden look, so don’t expect too many dynamic colors. Within the visual design, the tones seemed well-developed and full. Blacks were dark and tight, while shadows showed good delineation. This was good enough for an “A-“.

Though not as memorable, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Brideshead seemed more than adequate for the material. Actually, the soundfield opened up better than I expected for a film like this. Music offered excellent stereo imaging, and effects offered more information than I anticipated. Elements like cars and trains moved around the spectrum, and general ambience created a good feel for the environment. There wasn’t anything slam-bang here, but the soundscape was more involving than usual for a flick like this.

No issues with audio quality emerged. Speech was natural and concise, and effects seemed accurate. They displayed good range and clarity. Music was lush and full throughout the movie, and low-end seemed perfectly adequate. Nothing exceptional occurred here, but the track was fine for the material.

When we shift to extras, we open with an audio commentary from director Julian Jerrold, producer Kevin Loader and screenwriter Jeremy Brock. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They look at the script and the adaptation of the source novel, cast and performances, cinematography and editing, sets and locations, and other production topics.

We find a pretty good discussion here. In particular, the notes about changes from the novel prove useful, but those aren’t the only interesting parts. The participants mesh well to provide an informative overview of the production.

A featurette called The World of Brideshead goes for 20 minutes, 47 seconds and includes remarks from Jarrold, Brock, Loader, producer Robert Bernstein, director of photography Jess Hall, Castle Howard owner Simon Howard, costume designer Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh, hair and makeup designer Roseann Samuel, and actors Emma Thompson, Michael Gambon, Matthew Goode, Ben Whishaw, and Hayley Atwell. “World” looks at the adaptation of the source material and the movie’s themes, cast, characters and performances, visual elements, costumes and hair, and sets and locations.

“World” provides a decent general take on the flick. It exists as a promotional tool, but it does more than just tout the movie. Not a whole lot more, granted, but it provides enough additional material to make it worth a look.

Seven Deleted Scenes run a total of 11 minutes, 35 seconds. These include “Goodbye” (1:30), “Mr. Samgrass” (1:14), “Art School” (0:32), “Still Here” (1:50), “Celia’s Exit” (1:46), “The Slap” (2:20), and “He’s Dying” (1:48). Across the board, I thought these were pretty superfluous. It’s nice to see more of Charles’ father in “Goodbye”, and “Exit” allows a little more character for Celia, but there’s nothing here that really would add much to the film.

We can watch all these with or without commentary from Jerrold, Loader and Brock. They give us some decent details about the scenes, but they don’t tell us much about why they were deleted. There’s enough good information to merit their comments, but I’d like to know more about why the sequences got the boot.

A few ads open the DVD. We get clips for Miramax Films, Swing Vote, and Earth. These also appear in the Sneak Peeks area along with promos for Grey’s Anatomy Season 4, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and Blu-Ray Disc. No trailer for Brideshead appears here.

A strong depiction of its characters allows Brideshead Revisited to overcome a mix of potential problems. Filled with strong performances and tight, precise storytelling, the movie turns into a character-driven winner. The DVD offers excellent picture quality, good audio and a few decent extras. This is a fairly positive release for an intriguing film.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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