DVD Review: Vanity Fair
by R.J. Carter
Published: February 4, 2005
From the very opening credits of Mira Nair's vision of William Makepeace Thackeray's novel, the viewer is treated to a study of contrasts, extending beyond the school of colors. The juxtaposition of the classes--the opulence and extravagance as seen against filth and squalor (and vice-versa)--is as much an experience in cinematography as it social commentary.
Mira Nair's "Vanity Fair"
Once thrust into this world of early 19th century England, we encounter Becky Sharp, still a child, having her first encounter with the Marquess of Steyne--he wishes to buy a portrait of Becky's dead mother, and Becky, not wishing to part with it, drives the price up.
The story jumps in leaps after that. She's orphaned. She's left at a school for girls where they are told they can do whatever they wish with her, and we presume she was fairly much the Cinderella of the students.
And then she leaves, all grown up and in the company of her best and only friend, Amelia (GARAI) Sedley, to be a governess for the Sedley family.
Becky falls in love with Amelia's brother, the well-travelled Jos. But Amelia's betrothed, George Osborne (played to the nasty hilt by RHYS-MEYERS) convinces Jos that if he were to marry outside his class to Becky, then he himself might not marry Amelia. Becky is put out and begins a series of social-climbing adventures. Meanwhile, the Sedley family finds itself suddenly impoverished at the hands of the Osbornes.
As their paths continue to cross through life and love, fortune and failure, Becky and Amelia both come to realize that they long ago left behind the loves they were blind to. Fortunately for both of them, it's never too late to overcome stupidity and wrong choices, and the movie comes to a satisfying happy ending.
WITHERSPOON's performance was admirable, and I actually had to make a conscious effort to remember that she was the same actress who played in SWEET HOME ALABAMA and LEGALLY BLONDE. VANITY FAIR shines a new spotlight on her acting abilities, and she truly sparkles.
Reese Witherspoon stars in
Mira Nairís VANITY FAIR, a
Focus Features release.
Trailers included on this DVD include THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES and RAY.
There are a few deleted and alternate scenes that, unfortunately, are neither selectable one at a time nor incorporable into the movie; they play all in one sequence upon selecting the option. However, the audio commentary with Nair as well as the "Welcome to Vanity Fair" and "Women of Vanity Fair" featurettes are worth watching.