Vanity Fair

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Movie Review by Neils Hesse

Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Eileen Atkins, Jim Broadbent, Gabriel Byrne, Romola Garai

Director: Mira Nair

Becky Sharp (Reese Witherspoon) is a plain English girl living during the first quarter of the 19 th century, with a background of no worth to the high society she dreams of making it to the very top of and she will stop at nothing to get there. Her first steps towards entering higher society are taken through a job as a governess to the daughters of Sir Pitt Crawley (Bob Hoskins) and it is here that she meets and covertly marries an heir Rawdon Crawley (James Purejoy). All these changes take her to the great city of London where she makes an acquaintance with the influential Marquess of Steyne (Gabriel Byrne) who offers her the chance to enter the very circle that she has dreamed of conquering for so long but at what cost? Meanwhile her old school friend Amelia (Romola Garai) falls out with her over a misunderstanding concerning the man she loves, and Becky’s husband begins to question the basis of the friendship she has with the Marquess.

Mira Nair the famed director of films like MISSISSIPPI MASSALA, KAMA SUTRA and MONSOON WEDDING to name a few takes up the reins to bring a new audience to the tale of Becky Sharp based on the classic novel by William Makepeace Thackeray. Mira Nair brings her very strong visual style to the movie from the exquisite costumes, scenery and the interiors of the dwellings – it is all expertly done. She also manages to handle all the strands of the film very well including Becky’s drive to the top, Amelia’s trials and tribulations and the general attitudes of the people in high society of that time. This is a tale that has been told many times, but what stands out here is the freshness of the film and the performances that manage to breathe new life into the story.

Acting credits go to Reese Witherspoon for being engaging and thoroughly believable as an English girl who takes you along on her journey. She projects the strength, wit, charm and naivety of her character perfectly. Her performance alone keeps you intrigued with the tale at hand whilst the supporting performances from namely Bob Hoskins, Jim Broadbent, Rhys Ifans, Gabriel Byrne, Geraldine McEwan, James Purefoy and Jonathan Rhys Meyers all complete the movie more than satisfactorily.

This is a story about survival, love and the power of dreams and those elements are timeless. Whereas today a woman need not rely on a man to succeed, back then it was literally impossible to progress without the aid of a man in some manner or form. VANITY FAIR is an entertaining movie with some interesting lessons for all.

4 out of 6 stars