Why i have never watched this in the first place is the result of the deplorable casting in De Palma's film. He got everything so absolutely and totally wrong. He took one of the great novels of my era and turned it into complete crap.
The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990)
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Why i have never watched this in the first place is the result of the deplorable casting in De Palma's film. He got everything so absolutely and totally wrong. He took one of the great novels of my era and turned it into complete crap.
Aside from the obvious facts like adapting a masterful novel of epic proportions and turning into a 2-hour movie (impossible feat considering the many plot points, characters and enormous details), they didn't stand a chance with anything. This was 1990 and here's a work about yuppie generation back when they were a dying breed, so it's quite obvious that audiences wouldn't get much of the sarcasm of the period, specially the way Wolfe described those hateful folks in the early 1980's when yuppie was the trend. Flawed casting choices from a producer who exited the film to get a higher position in another studio was also a factor that damaged the film along in picking a successful playwright who sort of messed it up with the script; and the vanities, oh the vanities from stars, crew and even the director who kept changing everything about the script at the last minute. It's not easy to make a film in Hollywood.
Brian De Palma's film is about the survival of the fittest in a New York jungle where one small wrong step can change a whole game and turn everything into either a calamity or an accidental triumph. Disgraced journalist Peter Fallow (Bruce Willis) gets his golden ticket while covering the story of Sherman McCoy (Tom Hanks), a great Wall Street trader involved in a hit-and-run accident that sent a black kid to the hospital. A wrong turn to the Bronx, along with his mistress (Melanie Griffith) and then a disaster, specially since it's mayoral election year and a greedy district attorney (F. Murray Abraham) wants to get his photo opportunity and hunt down a possible "great white defendant" to justify to possible voters that NY isn't just sending blacks and Latinos to jail. Gargoyles-like characters enter the scene from lawyers, prosecutors to tycoons and figures of the high society and also some less fortunate ones who'll turn McCoy's life into a descent to hell and elevate an opportunist to a massive stardom.
The film detractors who know the book aren't wrong when they say the film lacks in bite, Wolfe's eye for detail and descriptions couldn't be exactly translated specially his sarcastic tone about characters based on real figures and the cynicism about them. Some of the changes made for the film version are rather strange, somewhat acceptable but they hurt the film to a lot of people (the idea of changing the judge ethnicity proved to be the most hurtful one - the studio spent more money in turning the judge a black character than in leaving as he was. In cinematic views, it worked but not that much with that Frank Capra moralistic ending). Another problem is: this isn't a dark comedy, it's an elegant farce which wasn't much appropriate for that kind of material. But it's a funny film and I always get my fair share of laughter - Melanie Griffith is quite flawed but she pronounces Sherman's name exactly like Maria does in the book ("Shamann"); the scenes with Kevin Dunn as Hanks' lawyer are priceless just as Saul Rubinek as the district attorney.
Despite the errors and difficulties, "The Bonfire of the Vanities" will find a little place in the spotlight for the ones who appreciate an interesting story filled with humor, drama and even minor tension. Those who haven't experienced the tasty descriptions of Wolfe will enjoy the film a lot more than the ones who read it. And if you have the opportunity to read Salamon's book about the lavish and shocking making of the film you'll understand a lot more about the movie-making process in Hollywood and how each decision affects a movie, and you'll forgive its mistakes. It doesn't justify much of the money spent in its production, a lot could be reduced but De Palma managed to make a more than decent film, one that stays with you due to some good acting (Willis is hilarious and Hanks tries some dramatic chops for the first time); amazing cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond and Eric Schwab (assistant director who captured the two most beautiful images from the film - also the most difficult ones); the unusual angles filmed from above that give a uneasy sensation we're flying above those ruthless characters. There's charm, some critique and it truly reflected an important cultural era of moral decadence disguised with wealth and power. Those Masters of the Universe didn't know anything about life and yes, progress can really cross a bridge and one day throw rich and poor into the same bonfire. No one got saved. 10/10
But then one night when he is with his mistress, Sherman takes a wrong turn off the freeway into the South Bronx and ends up hitting a black youth with his car because he perceives his life is in danger, and decides to not report the accident to police, to "hit and run". However, he is tracked down and arrested and soon realizes he is not the master of anything compared to the grifters, community leaders, ambulance chasers, and prosecutors who finally have a completely unlikable rich white perp and a poor black victim.
The novel was wonderful and nuanced. The movie is obvious and almost farcical. Hanks is too likable to play any of the characters in this film, I had Bruce Willis pictured as Sherman McCoy more than the drunken yellow journalist, and Kim Cattrell, who plays Sherman's wife, doesn't look like the matronly 40 year old and barely tolerated wife of anybody in 1990. Only Morgan Freeman as the judge rings remotely true. I'd pass on this one if I were you, but for sure read the book. After the 2008 crash and the banksters walking away without a scratch, Sherman McCoy seems more real than ever.
The story is slow and long-winded and full of unpleasant characters. Bruce Willis is in it for name value but feels badly miscast in the role of the writer. Tom Hanks looks uncomfortable throughout and his character comes across as false and artificial. The less said about Melanie Griffith and her dreadful performance the better.
The film just sort of drags on and on without ever achieving anything. I understand how it's supposed to be a satire of wealth and fame and the yuppie culture but the humour falls flat and the whole courtroom drama thing is dragged out to the degree that it becomes really boring. Other than the novelty of seeing Morgan Freeman in an against-type role this really is a pointless exercise.
The direction by Brian De Palma is brilliant, starting with the camera panorama sweeping across nighttime Manhattan from the top of the Chrysler Building with closeups of it's gargoyles, and ending with great elegant tuxedo and gowns for the ladies crowd scene of astonishing elegance and pomp made even greater by the background music (the music in this film is one of it's many great assets). The set decorations tell the "good taste" story in wonderful (and expensive) detail, and the script showing well educated, well mannered people speaking up and speaking out tells the "good taste" story verbally. "Bonfire Of Vanities" is an example of a latter day Hollywood major studio movie which succeeds in all ways, except for the way it was sold, and for the unjustified defamation it got from people close to it.
Overall rating: 8 out of 10.
Network, The Hospital, and The Bonfire of the Vanities are all movies that are 25+ years old. Yet all 3 of them seemed over the top when they were released but now they all seem clairvoyant about what would become the reality of 2016.
It is interesting how at times life ends up imitating art. One wonders what other movies will be seen as over the top today but in 20+ years clairvoyant...
** (out of 4)
Rich Wall Street hot shot Sherman McCoy (Tom Hanks) and his mistress (Melanie Griffith) are out for some fun when they take the wrong turn and end up in the ghetto of the Bronx. While Sherman is about to get robbed the mistress takes off in the car to save him and ends up running over one of the black men. Pretty soon a dirty D.A. and other conspire to turn the story into a race issue and reporter Peter Fallow (Bruce Willis) finds himself with a story.
THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES will go down as one of the biggest bombs ever produced by Hollywood and also one of the most hated film. I say one of the most hated films and that group are fans of the novel because most of them will turn green and vomit pea soup whenever this film is mentioned. I've never read the novel that this is based on so I obviously can't compare the two but what the film did offer wasn't very much and it's easy to see why it just didn't take off.
I've read about the troubled production of the movie and I think the biggest fault is in its casting. While there's some very talented people here, the casting just doesn't work. I had a major problem with Hanks because he was simply too nice and too much of a likable person to capture what I've read the book was trying to do. To make the lead character such a good guy really takes away any of the satire that the film is trying to go for and in the end it really makes for a rather boring story. Willis isn't much better as the reporter with his boring narration and he's just not fun. I'd say the same with Griffith who at least shows off her body but little else.
A lot of the blame has to go to director Brian DePalma who was on an incredible streak of hits before running into this thing. Many people seem to think that this was the movie that killed his career. I'm not sure what he saw in the story or why he decided to change as much of it as he did but the final product is just lame, boring and just not very interesting. All three lead characters are complete bores and the supporting characters aren't much interesting. When you're watching a movie with a bunch of people you don't care about it's just hard to invest too much into the film.
The film is pretty to look at and I'd argue that it's somewhat well-made but this means very little when there's just not enough entertainment. I honestly don't think the film meets its reputation as one of the worst ever made but I think I would have enjoyed it more had it really been that bad. As it is, THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES is just bland, which is the worst thing any movie could be.
Tom Hanks is wrong. He's a boy scout. He's the every man. He's no Wall Street man. He's not Charlie Sheen and he's definitely not Michael Douglas. The movie works too hard to make him the good guy and it doesn't feel right. Brian De Palma does a lot of interesting camera moves. The start is an impressive tracking shot. There are the umbrellas. The sets and locations look terrific but it also feels fake. This should be grittier, darker and harder. Every character is a caricature. Lastly, the two black guys need to be more definitive. They should be bringing out their guns to rob them or be two younger kids looking to help them. It would make whatever the movie is trying to do that much sharper. With the central character being so wrong, it's hard to make this movie right.
On the plus side, Morgan Freeman steals the entire thing (although his percentage of screen time is woefully lacking). And F. Murray Abraham does have the one funny line. That's right, one. The satirical wit herein isn't rapier, but more plastic spoon, and it just makes the whole movie a grind. Some of the worst pacing I've seen in a while.
If you do decide to suffer through this wretchedness, immediately go out and read Julie Salamon's "The Devil's Candy", which is one of the most scintillating behind-the-scenes books out there.
Unbelievably more rewarding than the movie.
There's a manic unhingedness about Wolff's writing, and the scenario/writing in the movie courageously tries to capture that. It's a broad and multi-dimensioned exposition on the excesses of success. Huzzah for that!
But translating it to the screen is also a juggling act--and other balls get dropped in this flick.
By way of one example, I cringed during each and every one of the the courtroom scenes. While I applaud the film's effort to show the multifarious tentacles of the monster of excess, the writer(s) overstepped--or perhaps just misapplied the tone--when they attempt to show what it looks like when one of those tentacles slithers into a courtroom.
Y'know, the more I think about it, the more I come to the conclusion that part of what niggles at me about TBotV is its nonstop cavalcade of exposition. These expositional freight trains, in general, tend to be tiring; film needs to "breathe" a little. It reminds me of what Wolff says about Chomsky in "Manufacturing Consent"; academics seize upon politics as an opportunity to act "like clergy". Well, TBotV sometimes comes off like a liturgical treatment of its subject matter. Perhaps Wolff didn't like Chomsky treading on his turf!
Anyway, the film sometimes seems on the verge of drowning under the weight and viscosity of its own expressionism. But I still feel it's worth watching for how skillfully the actors acquit themselves to the task of hammering out that expressionism, as well as marveling at the dedication of the director to unstintingly wielding that hammer, and the courage of the producers for budgeting this off-kilter merry-go-'round.
Tom Hanks is passable. Melanie Griffith's awful Southern accent is distracting. Bruce Willis is horribly miscast as a wry British journalist. We should be thankful that he doesn't attempt a British accent, but without the outsider status and the subtlety that such a role demands, Willis falls flat.
DePalma takes the novel's wry winks and turns them into desperate leers. It's like Steve Martin in character as The Jerk is sitting next to me in the theatre with a laser pointer saying say "LOOK! HOW FUNNY!!!".
If I could bring myself to watch the film again, I could go on and on pointing out particular moments that irked me into walking out on this film (something I very rarely do). Fat chance.
I realize that many folks out there will have never read Wolfe's excellent book, and if you haven't, this film might work as passable farce. If you HAVE read the book, you will very likely hate this film.
Tom Hanks plays self-styled 'master of the universe' Sherman McCoy, a Wall Street broker who enjoys every material comfort that life can offer, living in his huge apartment with his ditsy wife Judy (Kim Cattrall). During an eventful night with his mistress Maria Ruskin (Melanie Griffith), they take a wrong turn while heading back to her apartment and end up in South Bronx. Sherman gets out of the car to clear the road when he is approach by two black youths, and a misunderstanding leads to Ruskin accidentally running one of them over. They flee the scene, but once the story of a rich white man almost killing a poor black kid breaks, the likes of Reverend Bacon (John Hancock), a Harlem religious and political leader, Jewish district attorney Abe Weiss (F. Murray Abraham) and hard-drinking journalist Peter Fallow (Bruce Willis) rear their heads to twist the ongoing s**t-storm to their own benefit.
Despite some nice tracking shots and sets that really do capture the tacky glamour of the 80's, the movie's biggest downfall is the casting. The two leads, Hanks and Willis, are woefully miscast. McCoy is a loathsome character, a WASP-ish high-roller in an increasingly capitalist country, but Hanks is one of the most likable actors around. He looks visibly uncomfortable in a thinly- written role, and only takes control of his character in a scene in which he clears his apartment by unloading a shotgun played mainly for laughs, which at this stage of his career was Hanks's shtick. Fallow in the novel is a manipulative con-man, twisting the unravelling story through his newspaper in order to keep his job and make a nice paycheck along the way. But De Palma only seems to have picked up on his heavy drinking, meaning that Willis swings a bottle around and narrates the story, playing the role of spoon-feeder without playing an active role in story or convincing as someone who could get to his position.
But then again, De Palma's movie doesn't exist in the real world. Arguably, the ensemble of characters in Wolfe's novel were caricatures, but they were well-rounded characters, and being inside their heads meant that we could understand their motives, something the movie entirely ignores. So we get the likes of Bacon, Weiss, lawyer Tom Killian (Kevin Dunn) and Assistant District Attorney Kramer (Saul Rubinek), all key players in the novel, reduced to scowling or bumbling onlookers, while McCoy squirms for our amusement and Fallow tells us what we're supposed to be thinking. Occasionally its an all-out pantomime, which would be forgivable it was funny or insightful. Yet when Wolfe calls for pantomime at the climax, the movie delivers a ridiculous speech spoken by Judge White (Morgan Freeman), informing us that decency is what your grandmother taught you.
With a great great cast,great director,great music so i asked why the hell all the bad reviews? My only complain very little is that the parts of HANKS-WILLIS are change i mean the part of HANKS should be done by WILLIS and vice versa.
Besides that the movie are very entertainment and all the characters all in they parts completely so i don't have any complain of this movie.
Screw the critics and give this movie a chance...Believe me you won't be disappointment.
Though the movie is misguided, I didn't find it totally bad as some have made it out to be. I have to admit that as misguided as the movie is, and having a running time of over two hours, I was never BORED while watching it. The core story does unfold in a way that makes you interested in how it will be resolved. So while the movie is definitely a miss, it's not completely awful.
No other movie out there quite captures the phony and insincere hypocrisy of today's media and advocacy groups better than this one.
The only people who don't like this film are the ones who the film is satirizing. This movie, like Hollywood Shuffle, was way ahead of its time.
Like most accurate and truthful books and films, they are rarely appreciated in their day because the brutal honesty and truthfulness of what they have to say is too painful to openly accept and admit. It is a classic satire and incredibly well-written and well-acted.
I would recommend this film to anyone.
All I can say is that I laughed out loud in a lot of parts and admired the movie for what it is. A very good piece of satire. This movie had all the main elements of a society in decay and shows the true nature of the majority of people. Mankind is ultimately out for themselves and people will do what they can to get ahead no matter who they have to step on to get there even if it means lying and causing grief to innocent people. The amount of pretentious prats in this movie reminds of many people I know. This movie had it down pat when it came to showing the exact nature of politicians. They really don't care. They just want to get re-elected so they can keep their snouts in the public trough.
So don't listen to all the nay sayers on here this is a very good movie and will have you entertained for a couple of hours. In reality this movie is a 6.5 to 7.0 but I rated it an 8 to provide some compensation for all the harsh critics on here.
This film has a relatively low rating, especially when you consider the A-list cast and top-notch director. I can only suspect that is because there is no way to categorize this film. While it is clearly a comedy, it is both dark and satirical and yet just plain silly at times.
Is it a commentary on the justice system? Or perhaps on Wall Street? Maybe even journalism? Maybe if I read the Tom Wolfe novel I would get a better sense of the message. Otherwise, I just have to think there is no message at all and this film is a big-fisted boxer who refuses to punch.
Overall, the film was nominated for five Golden Raspberry Awards, including Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Actress (Melanie Griffith), Worst Supporting Actress (Kim Cattrall) and Worst Screenplay, but did not win any of those categories. A shame?
Three Best Actor Academy Award winners have major roles in the movie (F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hanks, and Morgan Freeman) and all three give breathtaking actor performances.....anyone who cares for fine movie actor work cannot afford to miss this great movie.
The direction by Brian DiPalma is brilliant, starting with the camera panorama sweeping across nighttime Manhattan from the top of the Chrysler Building with closeups of it's gargoyles, and ending with great elegant tuxedo and gowns for the ladies crowd scene of astonishing elegance and pomp made even greater by the background music (the music in this film is one of it's many great assets).
DiPalma's used of "fish eye" lenses for closeups of three of the movie's lovable villains (the best movies always have lovable villains, at least the best comedies do) in the final courtroom scene is inspired.....Brian DiPalma is one of the great directors of the 20th century in USA major movies.
The set decoration is especially notable.
The late Lillian Gish (1893 - 1993, an iconic movie star who lived to her 100th year, was the star of D. W Griffiths's "Birth Of A Nation" 1915 classic and later, at age 94, the star of "The Whales Of August" 1987 along with Bette Davis) opined during an interview seen in the documentary she was part of about the history of USA silent era movies (titled "Hollywood: The Silent Era" 1980 written and directed by Kevin Brownlow) that: "The movies of the silent era during the 1920's 'age of motion picture palaces on Broadway NYC and elsewhere' taught people good manners, elegance and good taste....those movies did a world of good, socially." People who want to see what good taste looks like, and how well mannered people trained and disciplined in good etiquette behave under pressure should see "Bonfire Of The Vanities" (1990) again and again and again.
The set decorations tell the "good taste" story in wonderful (and expensive) detail, and the script showing well educated, well mannered people speaking up and speaking out tells the "good taste" story verbally.
The irony is that this brilliant movie was widely accounted a failure by many associated with it.
Academy Award Winner actor F. Murray Abraham gives a brilliant performance worth seeing over and over again....certainly one of his best ever in any movie he ever appeared in. Yet he requested his name be removed from the credits list released for the movie, and his name does not appear either in the on-screen credits before and after the story, nor does it even appear on the WWW.IMDb.Com actor credits list part of the "Bonfire Of The Vanities" (1990) page offered by that important and justifiably respected website devoted to the movies.
A book was written about the making of "Bonfire Of The Vanities" and the overall conclusion of the book is that the movie was a failure.
The book referred to was titled "The Devil's Candy: The Anatomy Of A Hollywood Fiasco" (1991) written by Julie Salamon.
This movie was no fiasco.
It was and is one of the greatest big budget Hollywood movies ever made, and deserves honor and congratulations it didn't get at the level it deserved.
"Bonfire Of Vanities" (1990) is an example of a latter day Hollywood major studio movie which succeeds in all ways, except for the way it was sold, and for the unjustified defamation it got from people close to it.
Some wonderful movies deserving of the label "classic" just don't get no respect. It happened to "Citizen Kane" (1941) and it happened to "Bonfire Of The Vanities" (1990).
See both, own both, treasure both. You won't be sorry.
Written by Tex (David) Allen, SAG Actor.
Email Tex Allen at TexAllen@Rocketmail.Com
Visit WWW.IMDb.Me/TexAllen for movie actor credits and biography.
Visit David R. Allen Columbia PA Amazon.Com Profile for more than 80 reviews (books and movies) Tex Allen wrote.
Im going to start with the biggest problem. WHY WHY WHY did they cast Bruce Willis. Miscast. He doesn't make sense in that role. That character doesn't even do anything remotely important to the story and at the end (**SPOILER**) he writes a book which is a bestseller and wins the Pulitzer prize.(**SPOILER end**) I cant see how anything he could of wrote (they tell you ZILCH) and I cant see what it could have been about. So basically the storyline that involves Bruce Willis is mainly useless.
Tom Hanks is also a bit rubbish. But Morgan Freeman is good, did well in a poor film.
The story seems to be neither comedy nor drama but does try to show message but thats all. Genre less.
The last film I gave this rating (transformers 3) I didn't review due to what I call the WHAT DID YOU EXPECT policy. Rubbish acting stupidly cheesy and no plot oh but the billion dollar "action" scenes were decent 3/10
however incomplete the film adaptation is handled by Hollywood, the film still has the feel of a important work and a inherent desire for social commentary. a commentary that isn't always pretty and disdains both rich and poor, black and white together. it is also energetically funny as it merrily dissects and scorns contemporary urban lifestyles. it almost leaves the viewer on a madness line of giddy amusement and uncomfortable contempt.
Tom Hanks gives one of his uptight and stuffy best as a Waspish Wall Street business broker who makes a unfortunate wrong turn into the ghetto and inadvertently hits a black dude with his Mercedes. Tom Hanks is a excellent actor but he also has kind of made a acting career playing uptight characters much the way Jack Lemmon and Dean Jones did. here his uptight, compulsiveness is classic and a real "tour de force'. the very fussiness of his Wall Street broker is what gives him a indignation to be reckoned with.
the other performances by Bruce Willis, Kim Catrall and Melaine Griffith are also very funny and very human in a fallible sort of way. each character is a series of let downs and narcissistic juggernauts to everyone who gets in their way. Griffith especially gives a performance that is self absorbed and pathological but also willfully funny.
probably because of the subject matter, and unsympathetic approach most of this is given, especially in the wake of Rodney King's death and anniversary of the beatings and court trials, this film is definitely not for everyone. particularly the squeamish "politically correct".
Brian DePalma and the actors here give a much better showing than the film is usually credited. it is a brilliant satire on contemporary fallacies. as long as entertainment doesn't wallow in cynicism all the time, it's often healthy to explore and present the down side of humanity and it's sometimes dark and skewered intentions.
This movie is about what motivates people, both the good and the bad, and that in the end survival is the strongest motivator of all.
As for the movie as a movie, Bruce Willis was not good at all. The list of other actors better for this role is almost as long as the list of other actors. Mr. W was clearly bored and didn't give a hoot about the quality of his performance.
Hanks did a good job, as did Cattral, someone I generally don't like. Same for Griffith, she was good. Freeman did the "wise old sage" for the umpteenth time, but no one does it better. Alan King was good, Richard Belzer was bad.