September 1, 2004
Reese Witherspoon, Eileen Atkins, Jim Broadbent,
Gabriel Byrne, Romola Garai, Bob Hoskins
Julian Fellowes, Mark Skeet, Matthew Faulk
Janette Day, Donna Gigliotti, Lydia Dean
Novel by William Makepeace Thackeray
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By Phil Boatwright
The Movie Reporter
- The daughter of a starving English artist and a French chorus
girl, Becky Sharp is orphaned at a young age. Even as a child, she
yearns for a more glamorous life than her birthright promises. As
she leaves Miss Pinkerton's Academy at Chiswick, where she's treated
like a scullery slave for years, Becky resolves to conquer English
society by any means possible. She deploys all of her wit, guile,
and sexuality as she makes her way up into high society during the
first quarter of the 19th century.
But Becky's conniving drive to be accepted in society is always
met with consternation. Strained friendships, a rocky marriage, shunned
by rich relatives, and exploited by a powerful patron, Becky's life
does not go smoothly. Bolstered by a revolutionary feminist resolve,
Becky squarely meets each challenge and bests life's defeats.
Tweaking the social mores of the day, Vanity Fair is simply
exquisite. Beautifully photographed and splendidly acted, this Georgian-era
melodrama is full of wit, humor, and passion. Its engrossing Dickens-like
storytelling may not be as moving as Great Expectations or
as wickedly humorous as Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility,
but certainly Vanity Fair is a worthy heir to those classics.
Rating: PG-13 -- There is some subdued sensuality in the form
of low-cut dresses, and a brief sexual encounter between man and wife
(no nudity or graphic gyration), but the filmmakers are careful to
pay homage to the mores of the day. For example, when a man tries
to lure a young Becky to bed, she informs him that only two men shall
enter her bed chamber -- her husband and the doctor. There is partial
non-sexual backside nudity as an old woman gets out of a bathtub.
The violence is carefully handled as we see dead bodies on a battlefield
in one scene, showing the reality of war, and a brief violent image
as a man attempts to force himself on a woman. No objectionable language,
no sexual exploitation and no excessive violence.
Phil Boatwright is the editor of The Movie Reporter. Review used by permission.
Go to Phil Boatwright's website at www.moviereporter.com
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