August 30, 2004 12:00 PM

Stephen Campbell Moore, Emily Mortimer

Evelyn Waugh’s 1930 classic Vile Bodies couldn’t be more relevant today if he’d written it as an E! True Hollywood Story. It’s a fine-slicing satire—a julienne—of a society of party-mad Londoners who, with their affairs and mishaps, swim in and out of the headlines like glittering fish. If Waugh had been truly prescient, the Hilton sisters would be in there too.

This adaptation has the benefit of a giddily good cast—if s not true that every decent British actor is attached to a Harry Potter movie—including the divinely named Fenella Woolgar as Agatha Runcible, a mindless girl who awakes from a night of festivities unaware that she is in the Prime Minister’s home. Woolgar has the blankly dazzled gaze of a child mesmerized by a Christmas tree. But actor-novelist Stephen Fry, who not only wrote the script but makes his directorial debut, spoils the game by letting the rest of his cast wallow in the empty, callow heartbreak that Waugh only hints at. By the end, there’s more “wahhh!” than Waugh. (R)

COMEDY

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