The British Empire flowers; exotic India colors English imaginations. Becky Sharp, the orphaned daughter of a painter and a singer, leaves a home for girls to be a governess, armed with pluck, a keen wit, good looks, fluent French, and an eye for social advancement. Society tries its best to keep her from climbing. An episodic narrative follows her for 20 years, through marriage, Napoleonic wars, a child, loyalty to a school friend, the vicissitudes of the family whose daughters she instructed, and attention from a bored marquess who collected her father's paintings. Honesty tempers her schemes. No aristocrat she, nor bourgeois, just spirited, intelligent, and irrepressible. Written by
"Now sleeps the crimson petal", published 1847, does not feature in the novel as stated below; Becky sings "religious songs of Mozart" to please Lady Steyne. Rawdon junior was born in 1816 and is still a child, so Lord Steyne's party takes place in the 1820s. See more »
Vanity Fair is a beautiful mess. It combines the beauty of elegant costumes, sets and people with the disaster that is Mira Nair's adaptation of William Makepeace Thackery's novel. Not only is the adaptation bad but also so is what Nair has done with it. If you read the book, the movie will break your heart. It has completely ripped to shreds the pages of the classic story.
If you haven't read the book and intend to waste your money on the film, I would recommend that first you read a couple of plot summaries of the novel. Otherwise, you may be very lost through no fault of your own but because there is no defining plot in the film. There are no central conflicts presented and it's not until about two thirds of the way through that you have at least an idea of what is trying to be done here. Even then, it is unclear. Reese Witherspoon plays Becky Sharp, a social climber. Vanity Fair is supposed to be her story but instead, it is crowded by a confusing and unnecessary cast of supporting characters. I suppose Vanity Fair is a story about love but also about how the social class system can create a barrier between people. If this was the intended idea the supporting cast would be needed but Vanity Fair is supposed to be about Becky Sharp and the movie is far too much of an ensemble piece for that to be the case.
Mira Nair's direction is too present. She throws in too much of herself with the scenes about India and actually in India. Where the hell is the point? There just seem to be times when Nair thought it was okay to throw in another shot of an elephant's ass or belly dancers or India food.
Speaking of unwanted, Reese's second child was not credited in the closing credits but is in every scene Reese is. Witherspoon and the crew seemed to think they could hide the fact that she was pregnant by putting her in big clothes but that didn't work. She still looks pregnant and it ruins the effect the clothes should have had. It also puts the movie out of sequence. In one scene Reese is very large and in the next you can only see her belly if you look for it.
Vanity Fair could have been brilliant. The material is there, Reese bring to the table the range that we have come to expect from her and a performance that could have taken her places if it had been used better. But the fact remains that there are too many moments where ends just don't meet and the audience is confused to the point where the film can't rely on its pretty scenery to distract from its larger flaws. *1/2 out of *****
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