Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Vanity Fair, 09-06-04

The next film we had on our list was the new production of “Vanity Fair,” starring Reese Witherspoon (hitherto chiefly notorious for the “Legally Blonde” movies) as Becky Sharpe, which role she performs quite creditably. This version is directed by Mira Nair (“Monsoon Wedding”) which might lead you to correctly believe there is some emphasis on visual beauty and Indian elements wherever possible. Witherspoon and the other good looking young people essentially have the scenes stolen from them by the formidable cast of veteran supporting actors, notably Ruth Sheen as the hypocritical Miss Pinkerton and Gabriel Byrne as the villainous Lord Steyne. Such is the depth of the casting that stalwarts Bob Hoskins and Jim Broadbent are essentially wasted in the one-dimensional roles of Sir Pitt Crawley and Mr. Osborne, respectively. (Hoskins is just too friendly looking to be Sir Pitt. I mean, with a name like “Sir Pitt Crawley,” wouldn’t you expect the character to be creepy? Which is why I think David Bradley, a.k.a Argus Filch in the Harry Potter films, was a superior Sir Pitt in the 1998 TV miniseries version.) Witherspoon does well enough to establish credibility as a dramatic actress, although the supposed “Oscar material” hype being bandied about would be way overblown. On the other hand, there are good performances among the other young people: James Purefoy as roguish but loyal Rawdon Crawley, Tony Maudsley, who made Joseph Sedley much more clearly a rotter than I had recalled; and Rhys Ifans, who made William Dobbin’s unrequited love much more than the vague mooning you usually see. I suppose Romola Garai did well enough as Amelia Sedley, but the character is such a sap it’s hard to like her.
All in all, a very nice concise adaptation of Thackeray’s novel, and very good to look at.
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