The book, 800+ pages long in some editions, is unwieldy and complicated. I am not a purist about movie portrayals of books (I loved how Peter Jackson handled Lord of the Rings, for example), but this movie wasn't even in the spirit of Thackeray. What is so delightful about the book is the narrator and his acute, witty, sarcastic comments throughout the narrative. The movie has zero sense of that. It's more like a soap opera than social satire.
I believe that movie versions of books need to have plot adjustments, but in this movie Becky does not become the mistress of The Marquess of Steyne, just a very attractive neighbor of sorts. Totally takes away from their relationship and the end of the movie. In any case, it seems like every ten pages of the book were filmed, disregarding the details and nuance of the narrative.
Don't get me started on the characters and characterizatons. Becky Sharp is one of the most loathsome, conniving, calculating characters in literature. The movie sanitized her to the point she was unrecognizable. Disney-fied her, almost. The movie was about Becky Sharp (Reese Witherspoon, really), while the book was the classic tale of two women -- Rebecca and her best friend. In the movie, Jos Sedley was a bumbling, fat fool. In the book, Jos was fat, but hilarious.
And what was with George Osborne's nuevo-styled, super-gelled hair?
My more visceral reaction was to the "Indian elements" in the movie and why Nair chose to include them. There is a vampish, Bollywood-inspired dance number, the depiction of India as bastion of new-age, long-haired, George Harrison types, and a scene at the very end of the movie in which Becky and Jos do have a lavish, colorful, ridin'-on-an-elephant wedding in Rajasthan. Say whaa?!?!?
I have to disagree with Pooja's review -- I enjoyed Vanity Fair even though the character of Becky was diluted -- I despised Amelia and George and Dobbin in the book -- and I thought they came off prety awful in the movie -- the friendship between the two girls was reflected in the movie and I must disagree that the book was about the friendship between the two women. Agree with the character of the brother -- a comic fool in both.
As for the Indian images -- why not flesh out the orientalism pervading Victorian fiction by going Bollywood -- the nautch girl scene I found lovely and ridiculous aimed at the orientalist fascination of the aristocracy. I don't know what Nair's intention was and don't really care, but in my reading of the film I enjoyed the Vauxhaull garden exotica and the tongue in cheek look by the Indian servant when Becky says she loves all things Indian. By including Bollywood images one could argue that it is on par with the exaggerated orientalism of much of British fiction since the 18th century.
-- Sangeeta Ray
Mira Nair definitely put an Indian flair to it.. I never imagined the Vauxhall picnic to be as exotic with fire tricks and peacocks. (I questioned the outfit of one of the performers as more Greenwich Village than Victorian). The scene with the "nautch girls" was too much for me. Could not buy that for a minute and wished it would end. No one did line danced like that until the Jacksons came.
However, that scene was only in there because "Moulin Rouge" gave it permission to be. I loved MR for all its pomp and color and outrageousness. So, this scene was born with the elaborate make up and costumes. I always think of "Amadeus" where an opera had a "Turkish" theme. So the performers had worn regular French gowns & wigs, and then just added some "Turkish" element like turbans or vests (I can't recall exactly). So, if this scene were more reastic (i.e., the British women had danced for royalty), you wouldn't have seen as many belly buttons.
I had read in Phila. Inquirer review how Becky Sharp is very Scarlet O'Hara, and the film brings that to light -- the scene when Brett leaves Scarlet at the foot of the stairs and refuses to hear her is replicated in Riordan leaving Becky. Also, Becky & Scarlet are not exactly "mother of the year" material.
Despite all that, it was a fun movie and I do like Reese W. a lot. Good for her that she got to be pregnant and work in a movie!
-- Ashini Desai
Film description: Based on William Thackeray classic novel, Vanity Fair is a period tale set in post-colonial England. Filmed entirely on location in the UK and India. Reese Witherspoon stars as Becky Sharp, a woman who defies her poverty-stricken background to clamber up the social ladder; also stars Jim Broadbent, Bob Hoskins, Eileen Atkins, Gabriel Byrne, and Rhys Ifans.