Review of “Vanity Fair” (2004) PG-13 141min
February 7th, 2008 by Maxim · No Comments · 3,535 Views
I didn’t read William Makepeace Thackeray’s classic novel yet, but looking forward to it (should have read it when I was a kid – everyone I know did). The movie is directed by Mira Nair and script written by Matthew Faulk and Mark Skeet.
The plot: Becky Sharp (Angelica Mandy/Reese Witherspoon) was from a lower class, an orphaned daughter of a painter and a singer living in London in the early 19th century. The movie follows her over 20 years, covering her path from the working class governess up the social ladder thanks to her cleverness, wit, good looks and education, while society was trying to resist her ascent. From a job as governess for rich children to her marriage and child, Napoleonic wars, and attention from a marquess who is obsessed with collecting her father’s paintings.
Unlike adaptations of Jane Austin’s movies like Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, where almost all characters were nice people, the characters of “Vanity Fair” are far from being nice, which makes it more interesting, yet I think this movie was not as good. It’s probably the length. Granted, the movie covers some 20 years of Becky Sharp’s life, but if you are not in the right mindset this movie will be boring because it’s not particularly emotionally charged.
There seems to be too much India, which is understandable since the director is Indian, but it also adds to the movie in a way: it conveys the fascination with India in England: it was the new colony and the coolest thing at the time, like everything Egyptian was so fashionable in France at the time. So no wonder she plugged some Bollywood-like sequences in the movie – she is one of the great Bollywood masters as we could see in Monsoon Wedding (2001), the infamous Kama-Sutra:A Tale Of Love (1996) and more recently, The Namesake (2006). Also, the novel’s author, Thackeray, was born in India.
The good: the story is vibrant and the characters are interesting. Acting was most professional, and Reese Witherspoon was charming and charismatic. Sets, costumes and classical music were superb. The story is easy to follow. The contrast between haves and have-nots is staggering; it’s an examination of society and people as social animals.
The bad: in this sort of movies everyone is expected to behave, walk and talk a certain way. Because of this assumption I think none of the actors really had a chance to shine. Reese Witherspoon is fine American actress (I am not a fan) but she didn’t quite fit into the British cast: Gabriel Byrne, Rhys Ifans, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Ruth Sheen, Roger Lloyd-Pack.
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