Pin It
Favorite

DVD Review 

by Sheri Boggs


The 19th century created an almost inexhaustible supply of literary works ripe for cinematic translation. Great Expectations, Jane Eyre, The Phantom of the Opera, the entire Jane Austen canon ... all lend themselves to the kind of opulent costume drama or star-studded recreation Hollywood can't resist. At a certain point, however, the well starts to run dry.


I'm not saying that William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair isn't worthy of making the jump to the big screen. All I'm saying is that I never got more than four pages into the book.


Unfortunately I didn't have that luxury with the DVD. The responsibility of reviewing it meant seeing it through to the bitter, utterly contrived end. Reese Witherspoon plays Becky Sharp, an orphan-turned-governess who uses her beauty and considerable street smarts to become the toast of English society. While Thackeray's novel was meant to be a scathing satire on English aristocracy, director Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding) emphasizes the romantic elements of the plot -- namely how any man who crosses Becky's path can't help but fall in love with her.


Witherspoon is a competent actress, and she does her best here, but the dirty little secret of Vanity Fair is that her character is just not very likeable. Like Scarlett O'Hara, she's conniving, flirtatious and ambitious. Unlike Scarlett O'Hara, however, she really has nothing to endure. As a governess, Becky wanders around in brightly colored silks when in reality, most governesses of the time were dressed like shadows (to emphasize their poverty and remain unthreatening to the lady of the house). Even when she follows her soldier husband to France during the Napoleonic wars, Becky treats the entire episode as little more than a chance to suck up to the other English noblewomen.


Nair infuses the whole proceeding with Indian exotica -- at times welcome (Vanity Fair is nothing if not exotic) and at others, absurd (when Becky performs an elaborate quasi-Indian dance for a wealthy patron). Despite the potentially epic scope of the narrative, the movie feels more like it just drags (clocking in at a wearying 137 minutes). In the end, Vanity Fair is just what the title implies -- an exhibition of affectation.





Publication date: 2/24/05

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Skunked
  • Skunked

    Why Spokane County Commissioners passed a temporary ban on new outdoor pot farms without telling anyone
    • Dec 8, 2016
  • Prisoner Problems
  • Prisoner Problems

    Computer errors continue to plague state Department of Corrections; plus, Washington ranked first in pro-charter-school policies
    • Dec 8, 2016
  • In Defense of Refugees
  • In Defense of Refugees

    In the aftermath of the presidential election, local residents seek ways to love and support their refugee friends
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu
Spokane Storytelling League: Christmas Stories

Spokane Storytelling League: Christmas Stories @ South Hill Library

Sat., Dec. 10, 4 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Sheri Boggs

  • BOOKS
  • BOOKS

    From Twin Peaks to the darkest reaches of our galaxy, there's a new book for everyone on your list
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Unfinished Business

    Isaiah Wall wants to get his life on track. But first, he's gotta buy drugs for the police
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • Fake-News Nightmare

    The social media dream of the 2000s is fading, but we can reset the system by sticking up for the truth
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

Briefs


green zone


marijuana


trail mix


Comment


Readers also liked…

  • Patrolling While Black
  • Patrolling While Black

    Gordon Grant's nearly 30 years as a Spokane cop have been affected by race, but that's not the whole story
    • Jul 8, 2015
  • Manufacturing Fear
  • Manufacturing Fear

    Spokane's Republican sheriff says members of his own party are dangerously dividing people
    • Aug 12, 2015

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation