Author’s Note: Review originally published January 4, 2014
Starring – Matthew Goode, Ben Whishaw, Hayley Atwell, Emma Thompson, Michael Gambon, Greta Scacchi
Directed by Julian Jarrold
Brideshead Revisited was a wildly popular miniseries in the early 1980s. I actually haven’t seen that version, but after seeing this version, it is now on my list of must-see films because the 1981 version was over 11 hours long and that is the only thing I found lacking in this film version, I kept thinking things were missing and there was a lot of story and background I wasn’t privy too and dammit, I want to know more about these incredibly-fucked-up-but-you-still-root-for-them-anyway-people!
It is 1920s England and Charles (Matthew Goode) is a middle-class chap who gets accepted to Oxford University. While being given a tour of the campus, he is almost immediately warned not to hang out with the homosexuals, but what’s so cool about Charles is he ignores this “warning” and does hang out with the homosexuals, in fact he likes hanging out with one homosexual in particular, Sebastian (Ben Whishaw). Sebastian is from the upper class (think Downton Abbey ridiculous amounts of money and a castle for a house kind of thing), but he’s fucking miserable, drinking all the time and being a HUGE disappointment to Mummy (Emma Thompson). It is quite obvious Sebastian is gay and so there is no hiding it from Mummy and society, hence Sebastian being pretty fucking miserable and drinking all the time to forget the fact that he is one HUGE disappointment because he is gay. Charles begins to fall for Sebastian, but then Sebastian’s sister (Hayley Atwell) steps into the picture and Charles soon forgets about his crush on Sebastian and spends the rest of the movie pining after the sister.
You really, really, REALLY don’t want this woman as your mother.
I should know, because I had me a Joan Crawford Junior as a mother too and let me tell you, it sucks!
Just before I watched this film, I had this heterosexual chickie-la-la with a medical degree that wasn’t worth the paper it was written on psychiatrist tell me that there was NO way that I ever experienced homophobia as a child since I didn’t know I was gay until my mid-20s. In her wisely wisdom-filled words of pure, unadulterated malarkey, “You can’t experience homophobia if you don’t know you are homosexual.” I just love when heterosexuals lecture me about what I know and don’t know about my experiences with being gay. Yes, I didn’t know I was gay when I was little, BUT everyone around me DID know, so when it walks like a dyke and talks like a dyke in 1980s rural Florida, whether I knew it or not, it gets treated like a dyke. In other words, like shit, which is why I’m seeking your psychiatric services in the first place. How does one get psychiatric treatment for the mistreatment from psychiatrists? So to get back to my point, while I was watching this film, I was definitely Team Sebastian because he couldn’t just hide away from his sexuality and pretend to like women and marry one so he could make Mummy and society happy. People knew since he was little that he was gay and they let him know that they did NOT like his sissy boy ways at all and that is probably why he is already miserable and a drunk by the time he is 20.
I don’t know why, but I love these English melodramas. They seem so silly when they are American, but give it a cast with English accents and stick a ridiculously too big castle-like mansion in the middle of the whole damn thing and I’m eating it up. I think this review kind of lost its point, so to sum up, good movie that doesn’t hide a character’s homosexuality, in fact it embraces it, and a bisexual is in the mix to boot, which is rarer in a movie than a woman who is there for more than just being the love interest, which this movie does do with the female lead, but so do most movies, so you can’t have it all. Now I’m off to see the 11 hour version!
Fun Fact: Andrew Davies, who has written basically every British TV show and film in existence from the last 25 years, wrote the screenplay for this movie. Andrew Davies is a GOD!
P.S.: Yes, I am that much of a film nerd that I worship a screenwriter most people have never heard of.
Update 10/5/2017: Sebastian has been very much on my mind lately, so I finally decided to find some time to sit down and watch the original version of Brideshead Revisited, or at least part of it. The damn thing is 11 hours long, after all, and although I was looking for more info to fill in the blanks the 2008 version left (mainly about Sebastian), I discovered with the earlier version that not much different happened, just more of it, and the more of it actually included a lot less gay Sebastian, and so at the end of the day, I discovered that I liked the newer version better. Maybe I should finish the original miniseries, and maybe I will one day, but I think I was too moved by the remake that now nothing can compare, not even the original, which I know was praised by critics and audiences alike, but having Sebastian totally out of the closet in the remake, instead of just hinting at it, from what I saw in the original, just made the sadness of his story that much more powerful to me. Because in many ways Sebastian’s story is my story too and even though I love Sebastian so very much, that totally sucks for me because that was not a man who lived a happy life. There are a lot of us Sebastians out there and what we needed was some love and kindness from our mothers, but instead what we got from them was coldness and deceitfulness and manipulation and worst of all; absolutely, positively no love at all, whatsoever. Sebastian was a sensitive soul who couldn’t deal with such a harsh world, especially a harsh world that would give him a mother like he had. I fell into another depressive episode again recently and with Sebastian so very much on my mind, I discovered that my life could have been very much like his life, and in many ways it has been, but in many ways it hasn’t because I have found love, not from my mother, that will never happen, but from my wife and from other special souls who are out there loving me and all I have to do is reach out and accept this love, because you see, when you are a Sebastian, you believe that love is a dream not meant for you and you find excuses not to take the love in being offered to you because you think you don’t deserve such love, because if you own mother doesn’t love you, why should anyone else? Freud was right, mothers are very important for growth and development, and for people like Sebastian and me, a necessity for sanity and survival. And when you don’t have that, it is very hard to have love in your life, because even though people like me and Sebastian are very much about love, it feels almost impossible when it concerns someone loving us no matter who they are, we just assume love isn’t meant for us because we don’t deserve love. Sad, but true. I hope Sebastian found some kind of peace after he escaped his mother, and hopefully, one day, I will find peace too. All I have to do is reach out and accept that I deserve it.