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The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990)

 -  Comedy | Drama  -  21 December 1990 (USA)
5.4
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Ratings: 5.4/10 from 15,710 users  
Reviews: 109 user | 28 critic

After his mistress runs over a young teen, a Wall Street hotshot sees his life unravel in the spotlight, and attracting the interest of a down and out reporter.

Director:

(as Brian DePalma)

Writers:

(screenplay), (novel)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
...
...
Jed Kramer
...
John Hancock ...
Reverend Bacon
...
Tom Killian
...
Albert Fox
Louis Giambalvo ...
Ray Andruitti
Barton Heyman ...
Det. Martin
Norman Parker ...
Det. Goldberg
...
Mr. McCoy
...
Arthur Ruskin
...
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Storyline

Financial "Master of the Universe" Sherman McCoy sees his life unravel when his mistress Maria Ruskin hits a black boy with his car. When yellow journalist Peter Fallow enflames public opinion with a series of distorted tabloid articles on the accident, the case is seized upon by opportunists like Reverend Bacon and mayoral candidate D.A. Abe Weiss. Written by Jon Reeves <jreeves@imdb.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Take one Wall Street tycoon, his Fifth Avenue mistress, a reporter hungry for fame, and make the wrong turn in The Bronx...then sit back and watch the sparks fly. See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

21 December 1990 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La hoguera de las vanidades  »

Box Office

Budget:

$47,000,000 (estimated)

Gross:

$15,691,192 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(70 mm prints)| (35 mm prints)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Kristin Scott Thomas personally tested for Brian De Palma for the role of Judy McCoy, but when invited to L.A. to test with Tom Hanks, she happened to be on vacation with her children and couldn't make it. De Palma didn't forget her when casting Mission: Impossible (1996) a few years later. See more »

Goofs

Before cuckold Arthur Ruskin dies in the restaurant, his cocktail glass alternates from between his hands to outside his hands. See more »

Quotes

Aubrey Buffing: The wrath of heaven must be at hand! Its justice will not tarry! I see the deadly thunderbolt poised above his head!
See more »

Connections

References The Wizard of Oz (1939) See more »

Soundtracks

Pennies From Heaven
Written by Johnny Burke and Arthur Johnston
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
An excessive but funny American satire. De Palma tries to film his great masterpiece switching from Hitchcock to Kubrick. Perhaps, not wholly satisfactory but fascinating and one of the most interesting film
11 October 1999 | by (London, United Kingdom) – See all my reviews



After giving us two excellent films - "The Untouchables" and "Casualties of War" director and auteur Brian De Palma tried to get the masters degree on major filmmaking with the very complex best-selling novel by Tom Wolfe. Faced to the challenge of making a great satire of nowadays America, De Palma does not find his own voice as he did in his two previous films, and goes back to the copy-and-paste path. This time it is not an imaginative and talented personal version of Hitchcock obsessions, but an interesting approach to Kubrick's style in "Dr Strangelove" and even "Lolita". After confessing that the director he admires in a most intimate way is Stanley Kubrick, Brian De Palma uses the witty Tom Wolfe novel as the story he needs to imitate one of his most admired masters.

The result is an excessive but funny satire. It is certainly underwritten, overacted and overdirected but, still, De Palma shows once again a great visual style and a wild sense of humour which makes us laugh several times.

Perhaps, De Palma should have remembered that such a witty and complex story has to be told seriously with the apparent simplicity and hidden complexity he reached in "Casualties of War", without trying to underline with the direction that every scene is supposed to be funny. Those strange camera angles taken from Kubrick nuclear satire do not work here and the characters are too exaggerated -Jean Renoir said that each character has some reasons and here,if De Palma had tried harder not only to criticize but to understand them, it would have been a much more effective film- and being both a Kubrick and a De Palma fan, I think that Kubrick influence was not good at all here. In this satire, as in his Vietnam drama, such a talented director as De Palma could have given more importance to substance that to form, given that this was not one of his brilliant thrillers where form is essential, but an intelligent satire about people. In fact, in many moments of the film De Palma uses a not so mannered and much more effective style and shows a great talent in portraiting situations ironically, something which is not usual in films from the nineties.

Overall this work remains as one of the most aggressive portraits of America ever filmed. Perhaps this is why the film was a flop in the Box ffice -it was absurd to make it with such a expensive cast and budget, given that such an acid satire cannot be popular- and De Palma's career, which was on his best moment, did not recover completely even after the wonderful "Carlito's Way", one of his best films. If you study Film direction it is absolutely necessary to see it, because of its risks, mistakes and achievements.

In conclussion, one of those strange films which you will find fascinating both because of its values and its mistakes.Forget about the novel; the film is an excessive and wild satire which will make you both think and laugh. De Palma genius and talent are present in many scenes. Moments like the initial shot, Alan King's speech, Clifton James,Donald Moffat or Andre Gregory performances -even the Morgan Freeman final scene, which De Palma did not like and is really good, reminding me of Capra, something extremely difficult in such a cynical decade- are not easy to forget.

It is not often to find such a complex and interesting film. I strongly recommend it.


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