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
I was very disappointed with this adaptation of Thackeray's masterpiece. When this movie first came out I was very excited to see it and read the book in preparation. Now I wish I had just left it at the novel. Mira Nair's vision of Becky Sharp and the hypocrisy of Regency Britain is so far off the mark, she should be ashamed of herself for even using the title 'Vanity Fair.' All of Becky's backstabbing guiles have been down-graded to a form of pluckiness that completely fails to hit any mark of truth or irony... the two pillars of the original work. It saddens me to know that a generation of young people will watch this film and assume that Nair's vision of the story is a correct one. It also upsets me that several of the most entertaining scenes in the novel were altered or completely left out for the sake of forcing us to endure Reese Witherspoon's mediocre lip syncing in at least three separate musical numbers. Sure, in the novel, Becky could sing... but she was also a heartless sociopath who would do anything to get ahead. Out of the two personality traits, I believe Thackeray would rather us know the latter instead of the former. 'Vanity Fair,' the novel, is a sharp and often hilarious social commentary. 'Vanity Fair,' the 2004 movie, is a dull and often intellectually insulting piece of weepie dreck. Trust me, folks, spend your money on the book, or at least check out the far superior BBC version, which is twice as long but never quite as plodding as this mock-up of an adaptation.
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