Comic, novelist, actor and wit, Stephen Fry slaps another string to his bow with this enjoyable directorial debut, a period dramedy which gently satirises celebrity culture some 70 years before it became unbearable.
Adam Symes (Stephen Campbell Moore) is a wannabe writer whose titular tome is destined to exploit the lifestyle of the rich and famous gadabouts of 30s London. But returning from France, this "filth" is confiscated by customs - meaning he can't afford to marry socialite 'party animal' Nina Blout (Emily Mortimer).
His attempts to earn a crust, their romance and friendships form the world through which we whirl for 106 breathless minutes, as Evelyn Waugh's novel "Vile Bodies" is whisked into a sprightly, if slight, little movie.
With drug-taking, celebrity scandals and the encroaching fog of war, "Bright Young Things" couldn't be more prescient. The points it makes may be obvious, but they remain necessary in so superficial a society.
Some filmmakers would vilify the spoilt brats on screen, but it's to Fry's credit that he clearly cares about his creations - and elicits excellent performances from the young cast.
Mortimer makes a potentially unsympathetic character tender and touching, Michael Sheen excels as an exuberantly camp "naughty salt"-snorter, and Campbell Moore is astonishingly accomplished for a first-time feature actor - as is James McAvoy, who burns brightly and brilliantly as the tragic Lord Balcairn.
The picture's problem is that the writer-director is so desperate not to bore, he flits through the action a little too briskly, whizzing along with little rhythm. The story feels episodic, perhaps better suited to a television series.
And while there are moments of visual panache - the opening "Moulin Rouge" - style 'Inferno' party; the fast-cutting, hyperactive style used for the outstanding Dan Aykroyd's paper proprietor – it doesn't consistently engage the eye (possibly due to budget constraints).
Still, a witty, intelligent, promising picture. Carry on, Jeeves.