September 9, 2004

Vanity Fair

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Playing now at Fall Creek Pictures is the movie adaptation of William Makepeace Thakery”s novel Vanity Fair. The story covers the life of a young governess as she climbs her way up early 19th century British society. At this point, I think the only people reading this review are: 1. English/Comparative Literature majors 2. people really interested in Reese Witherspoon”s rising career or 3. a guy considering taking a date who is interested in categories 1 and 2 to this movie.

While Vanity Fair exhibits the talent of director Mira Nair and quality acting from a talented cast led by Witherspoon, nothing can avoid the boring soap opera of a movie that this picture turns into after a seemingly endless two hours and 17 minutes.

Actually, it”s a shame that Vanity Fair couldn”t pull together to become a great movie. Bollywood director Nair, best known for her film Monsoon Wedding, turns out a visually stunning film. Nair refuses the temptation to focus too much on Witherspoon, who is arguably this film”s only major source of star power.

In many ways, Witherspoon”s role in the film solidifies her place in the world of Hollywood”s upper echelon. After starring in films like Legally Blonde 2 and Sweet Home Alabama, Witherspoon”s role in Vanity Fair lets the audience know ‘See, I can be serious.’ Witherspoon doesn”t overact in portraying a 19th century governess, a role which is quite easy to exaggerate.

Another actor deserving mention is James Purefoy, playing the role of Becky Sharp”s husband, Rawdon Crawley. Purefoy”s acting and likeable character is actually one of the nice surprises in this otherwise boring film.

Vanity Fair is also bolstered by the performance of Jonathan Rhys-Myers playing the role of George Osborne. Myers has the privilege to play one of the film”s true jerks. Myers injects a delightful amount of selfishness and downright creepiness needed to convey the role of George. Don”t forget to look out for Bob Hoskins, best remembered for playing the scruffy detective in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Academy Award winner Jim Broadbent, both who lend talent to supporting roles in the film.

Unfortunately, Vanity Fair proves to be an immense waste of directing and acting talent. An epic novel like Vanity Fair simply cannot be compressed effectively into a little less than two and a half hours. Instead, too many characters and too many subplots are introduced with the only result being a disoriented and distracted audience. Sure, all the period costumes are accurate, Witherspoon”s British accent is well practiced, and antique furniture compliments the meticulous sets. But without a cognitive plot, the bells and whistles are only distractions. It doesn”t help matters that the novel the movie is based on is fairly predictable and full of clich