Catapulted some 50 years into the age of neon and cocaine, the blithely uncaring junior British celebutantes who populate Bright Young Things might have found soul mates among the denizens of ''Less Than Zero.'' Both crowds party in brittle pursuit of whatever's trendy; both wreak casual but real emotional damage on one another. As such, ''BYT'' sweethearts Adam Symes (Stephen Campbell Moore) and Nina Blount (Emily Mortimer) fox-trot through a courtship dependent on the state of Adam's finances and ability to maintain Nina in the proto–Paris Hilton style to which she has become accustomed.
The screenplay for ''Bright Young Things'' is adapted from the great British satirist Evelyn Waugh's prescient 1930 novel ''Vile Bodies,'' and both script and direction are the work of the glittering comedic polymath Stephen Fry. It's more difficult than ever, I think, to pull off a British period costume drama that doesn't look like it was unpacked from the mid-1980s ''Masterpiece Theatre'' circus trunk. Fry's sprightly attempt doesn't entirely avoid some of the clichés of drawing-room dramas actually set in drawing rooms, but his instincts are, happily, subversive. His cast is crème de la Brit (including Jim Broadbent, Imelda Staunton, Peter O'Toole, and 94-year-old John Mills). And Fry treats his bumbling characters -- like the coarse Canadian publisher Lord Monomark (Dan Aykroyd) and the carny evangelist Mrs. Melrose Ape (Stockard Channing) -- with contagious erupting glee.