Brideshead Revisited

Rated 2.0

In pre-World War II England, a middle-class Oxford student (Matthew Goode) is introduced to the rarified world of British nobility through a fellow student (Ben Whishaw) and his titled family—especially his beautiful sister (Hayley Atwell). Director Julian Jarrold’s movie (written by Jeremy Brock and Andrew Davies, from Evelyn Waugh’s novel) is stately, tasteful, serious—and dreary. There are hints of the novel’s depth, but only hints—minor characters are less than sketchy, and much of a complex story seems to have been left out. Goode, Whishaw and Atwell are earnest and attractive, but they lack the presence to create indelible characters; their polite work can’t compensate for the fact that actors of greater stature (Emma Thompson, Michael Gambon, Greta Scacchi) are off-screen too soon, and for too long.