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Vanity Fair (2004)

PG-13 | | Drama | 1 September 2004 (USA)
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Growing up poor in London, Becky Sharp (Witherspoon) defies her poverty-stricken background and ascends the social ladder alongside her best friend, Amelia.



(screenplay), (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
2 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Angelica Mandy ...
Ms. Green (as Lillette Dubey)
John Franklyn-Robbins ...


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 <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


All's fair in love & war. See more »



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some sensuality/partial nudity and a brief violent image | See all certifications »



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Release Date:

1 September 2004 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Vanidad  »

Box Office


$23,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$6,268,925 (USA) (3 September 2004)


$16,123,851 (USA) (5 November 2004)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


In the early 1970s Stanley Kubrick wanted to direct an adaptation of this book, but found it to be too big to make it into a three-hour film. He instead made Barry Lyndon (1975). See more »


When Becky Sharp comes to London, a modern-day street lamp is reflected in the coach's window. See more »


Becky Sharp: Rawdon, wait! WAIT! I'm sorry! You cannot know the journey I have made.
Rawdon Crawley: I should. I traveled it with you.
Becky Sharp: Not from the beginning. Rawdon, in my way, I have love you.
Rawdon Crawley: Then that has been your misfortune.
Rawdon Crawley: [pauses]
Rawdon Crawley: Goodbye Rebecca.
Becky Sharp: [screams in despair]
See more »

Crazy Credits

Before the credits start rolling the word "Alvida" (goodbye) appears in Urdu script. Beneath it is the following dedication: for our beloved Ammy Kulsum Alibhai 1927-2003 See more »


Version of Becky Sharp (1935) See more »


Over the Mountains/The Great Adventurer
Arranged by David McGuiness
Produced by Mychael Danna
Performed by Custer LaRue
Custer LaRue appears courtesy of The Dorian Group, Ltd.
See more »

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User Reviews

Great film, if you haven't read the book
6 October 2004 | by (Columbia, South Carolina, USA) – See all my reviews

This is an entertaining movie that goes over two hours, but I really don't understand why it was made. Sprawling stories spanning several decades with several subplots involving dozens of characters are totally defensible on the printed page, where we can always go back and remind ourselves which character is which and how this character is related to that one. But this type of thing makes no sense whatsoever in a film. Unless a viewer has a phenomenal memory, such a story on film invariably leads to confusion and to my asking myself, "now wait a minute, whose brother is this, and whose son?"

So that is one of the principal problems with this film.

There are several other problems as well. Reese Witherspoon is badly miscast. She simply lacks Becky Sharp's bite. In fact, the whole film lacks Thackeray's bite. Reese does a good job with the British accent, but it just doesn't work. She is just too American for the role. Weren't there any British actresses available, or were the producers just relying on Reese's star power? Reese is just too nice to play Becky.

It has often been said that Becky Sharp was the model for Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone With the Wind," although Margaret Mitchell denied this. Even so, I kept visualizing Vivien Leigh in this role and imagining how perfect she would have been. I think Mira Nair was thinking of GWTW as well, because there are several scenes in the film that are obvious homages to it. First there are the battle scenes during the Battle of Waterloo, followed by a panoramic view of the carnage following the battle, complete with corpses strewn all over the battlefield. This was an obvious homage to the crane shot over Atlanta in GWTW. The final fight between Becky and her husband reminded me of the final fight between Scarlett and Rhett in GWTW. I half expected the husband to say "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."

Another flaw involves the Indian director Nair's inability to resist bringing in some Bollywood type scenes, particularly one involving Becky leading an Indian type dance, with Indian music, before the king, no less, and to thunderous applause.

And yet another thing: this film spans at least twenty, maybe twenty-five or thirty, years in Becky's life after she graduates from finishing school--I am not counting the one scene of her as a child--yet the character never ages. Neither do any of the other characters. Maybe the makeup staff went on strike?

But most of these problems won't even be noted by someone who hasn't read the book, so if you haven't, go ahead and see it; you'll probably be entertained. And if you are someone like me who loves the book, you may not be able to resist seeing it anyway. But Thackeray was never so soft.

89 of 104 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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The Arabic music/dance scene Pixton
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