Times Review of Episode 2

Andrew Billen writing in today’s Times has nothing but praise for the second episode of BBC’s Decline and Fall adaptation:

On Friday the BBC’s adaptor James Wood did very well keeping our interest now that the action has moved to Margot Beste-Chetwynde … and what was once her country pile, but is now, thanks to the attentions of her lover, a brutalist German architect, a concrete block. After years of gazing upon Downton Abbey, I found that reveal was very funny …This serial may not have caught the public mood, but there is not a bad performance in it. Jack Whitehall as the naive young master who falls for Eva Longoria’s grandly deceitful Margot is excellent. I’d take his Pennyfeather over his Alfie in Bad Education any evening. Grimes turned up again at the end of the episode, having faked his drowning, as one of Margot’s sex traders. It is not a very likely turn of events, but, then, this drama is produced by the BBC’s comedy department.

On another note, The New Yorker magazine has cited  Waugh’s novel A Handful of Dust in connection with its review of the new film The Lost City of Z written and directed by James Gray. The film is based on the exploits of explorer and self-publicist Col Percy Fawcett as described in the book by David Gramm with the same title. See previous post. The review of Gray’s film is by the New Yorker’s movie critic Anthony Lane who also moonlights as a Waugh critic:

Well before his vanishing, legend coiled around [Fawcett]; his reports and speculations may have prompted his friend Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to write “The Lost World” (1912), the precursor of “Jurassic Park.” You could equally frame Fawcett as desperate, deluded, and ill-prepared. Some of that bitter comedy clings to the hero of Evelyn Waugh’s “A Handful of Dust” (1934), who heads haplessly into the rain forest and never comes back. Humor, though, is not Gray’s forte, and his Fawcett is a sturdy and somewhat monotonous creature, who, for all the strivings of Charlie Hunnam [who plays his part in the film], does not consume us. “We shall not fail,” he declares, pompously and—as it turns out—inaccurately. “Mankind awaits our discoveries.”


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