Sparks fly when spirited Elizabeth Bennet meets single, rich, and proud Mr. Darcy. But Mr. Darcy reluctantly finds himself falling in love with a woman beneath his class. Can each overcome their own pride and prejudice?
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
Elegant costumes, beautiful scenery, and piano playing in excess all
add to the sights and sounds of Mira Nair's film 'Vanity Fair.' Her
2004 version is one of over ten tries to put William Makepeace
Thackeray's novel onto the big screen. Most attempts failed miserably,
lacking the magic of today's movies and failing to grasp the themes of
the novel. Nair's version, with its visual and audible pleasures, has
the potential to become one of the few successful attempts.
With humble beginnings as a poor child with a starving artist as her
father, Becky (Reese Witherspoon) was determined to overcome
her circumstance. She managed to work her way into a governess position
in a down-on-his-luck aristocrat. New opportunities arise, and she
hastily abandons her post to become the companion to a wealthy woman
known only as Miss Crawley (Eileen Atkins). Much to Miss Crawley's
displeasure, Becky wastes no time in her quest to climb the social
ladder and marries into the family. Becky's new husband, Crawley's
nephew, is soon sent off to war. Returning after the battle of
Waterloo, their marriage is rocky due to his gambling debts and her
never-ending quest to raise her social status. Meeting a man who
collected her late father's art, she uses his money and his influence
to continue her rise in the social hierarchy, causing more distress to
Nair attempted to bring something new to the film, using her fantastic
creative talents in the costuming and scenery. Her musical choices
weren't overwhelming and accented the film rather than hiding behind
its beautiful visual aspects. She tried to cover the expanse of the
novel, but ending up making a summary of the story and leaving the
characters bland and undeveloped. Nair intentionally portrays Becky as
a victim of the social system, showing her as merely taking advantage
of circumstantial events. This contradicts harshly with Thackeray's
Becky, who is manipulative and cunning, turning circumstantial events
into anything that will benefit her rise up the social ladder.
This movie is beautifully made and had the potential to become
something great, but Nair's overly eager attempt leaves it as nothing
more than another mediocre film. Had she paid as much attention to the
plot and the characters as she did to the audio and visual aspects,
this would definitely be the best film of the year. But she didn't, so
don't waste your seven dollars to see it in the theater. Wait for the
video, or better yet, wait for that one Friday night when you are home
alone and it comes on cable.
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