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
Ironically, 'Vanity Fair' is a very fitting title for this inexpressive and characterless remake of a true classic.
I had the somewhat unfortunate job of accompanying two teenage girls to my viewing of Vanity Fair. As any cinema attendee will know, there is nothing more irritating then two talkative teens, with the attention span of goldfish, chatting throughout the entire film. All their interest was well gone by the time Gabriel Byrne strutted onto the screen, and although it pains me to admit it, my interest had slowly subsided with theirs.
Although beautiful shots, skillful performances and magnificently designed sets came bountiful, there was still one vast absence that was so dearly missed. This was the charm, the charisma and the fascination that connects the audience with the characters. The scenes didn't fuse well and felt shabbily thrown together. Acknowledged events came as surprises and characters lost their appeal and distinctiveness. Becky Sharp, played by Reese Witherspoon, became aggravating and tedious, and any sympathy, understanding or patience for that matter, was lost to a plot so drawn and witless, it made 'Charlie's angels' seem thought provoking.
The charm and the magic of the William Makepeace Thackeray novel were forgotten in this drawn and soulless remake of a classic. Worth the watch for the costumes and set alone, but expect nothing more.
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