Vanity Fair [VHS]
Adaptation of Thackeray's satirical masterpiece about the constant battle for wealth and social success amongst the aristocracy of the early nineteenth century. In a society growing rich on the wealth generated by an expanding empire, Becky Sharp (Reese Witherspoon) is the ambitious daughter of a poor family, who will let nothing stand in her way in her attempt to climb the social ladder. Taking a position as nanny to the children of Sir Pitt Crawley (Bob Hoskins), Becky insinuates her way into the family's favours and into London society, eventually marrying Crawley's eldest son Rawdon (James Purefoy). When Rawdon proves to be a gambler and a drunkard, Becky wastes no time in approaching the influential Marquess of Steyne (Gabriel Byrne), in the hope that he will help advance her position. But will Becky Sharp come to regret the ruthlessness of her agenda, and can she keep climbing the social ladder forever?
The corsets and high waists of the 19th century meet the lush colors and visual splendor of India in Vanity Fair, a classic novel translated into modern celluloid by Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding). The very contemporary Reese Witherspoon (Legally Blonde, Election) at first seems to hit the wrong note as Becky Sharp, an orphaned girl who rises to the heights of society using her quick wits and feminine wiles. But as Vanity Fair unfolds, the movie's tone embraces both period decor and modern attitudes, searching for a bridge that will carry us more deeply into a different time. It isn't wholly successful--the movie's end wraps things up awkwardly--but some scenes achieve a surprising and vivid immediacy, in particular one in which Becky's gambler husband (elegant James Purefoy) catalogues his worth for her before going off to the Napoleonic battlefields; love and pragmatism fuse with heartbreaking results. --Bret Fetzer, Amazon.com --This text refers to the DVD edition.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
Good points first -- beautiful! Visual stunner of a film, thanks to the director of photography, set designer, costume designer, make-up people... anyone who had anything to do with the visuals gets a thumbs up.
Bad points -- the director plays it safe and, therefore, everything is boring. This is supposed to be a stinging story about one of literatures most notorious social climbers. This woman is supposed to be the original material girl, serious bad news, out for herself, character you love to hate and hate that you love her. But not in this glossy film. Reese is sweet as pie and they had to change the ending so that we can have a Hollywood/Disney photo op to close out on. Ugghhh!
Well, I hear there is a BBC version out there that I might give a try.
She seems to wish to soften her up a bit from the Thackery depiction of her character - to make her more sympathetic. The Becky Sharp of the book was a more dauntless and unprincipaled adventuress and I feel that Nair has not allowed Witherspoon (usually so good at comedy) a chance to really go to town in this role.
She seems far more an innocent victim of Lord Steyne (for eg) than an amoral manipulater who's only real regret is that she is found out, which is much more the feeling I got from Thackery. Don't get me wrong, I think we are menat ot sympathise with her -I did in the book because it's hard not to sympathise with somone who is so determined and dauntless.
But in any case this was very watchable and fun and I would highly recommend it to anyone - but I would also read the book first.
Perhaps inevitably the compression of a medium length novel into a short-ish movie plays hell with plot-line and characterisation aspects, which can unfold at length in the leisurely stroll through hundreds of pages, but are drastically reduced by the scope of a 140-odd minute film.
I recently watched the BBC TV series adaptation, which, being longer, was more faithful to Thackeray's plot. But several key characters were, for me, slightly miscast, gawky unrequited but upright Dobbin in particular, who I saw in my mind's eye as more Rhys Ifans-ish. So I was surprised and delighted to find that very man in the role of Dobbin in this version*.
The casting here isn't perfect either. But then again, some of this boils down to there simply not being enough time to properly develop characters beyond thumbnail sketches. Reese Witherspoon is enjoyable as Becky Sharp, but by the end of the movie, despite Rhys Ifans looking more the part - at least as I'd seen him in my mind's eye when I read Thackeray's novel - I was thinking that perhaps Philip Glenister in the 1988 BBC adaptation got over a fuller and more nuanced character. But then he did have much more time to do so.
Both the BBC TV adaptation and this version make Becky Sharp rather more sympathetic than does Thackeray. Other tricky characters include Rawdon Crawley and Amelia Sedley, whose characters need more room to be properly explored.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
v good film, i had seen it before but it stands the test of time well.Published 17 months ago by mark lawrence
Service was fast. But when tried watching it it kept skipping. Was a brand new dvd in plastic packaging so was not sellers fault.Published 17 months ago by Amazon Customer