Release: 1 Sep. 04
BY: DAVID PERRY
William Makepeace Thackerayís exhaustive novel Vanity Fair
has been an odd part of the canon. Itís long, stodgy, and a bit stilted.
While there are sections of unequaled literary import, the complete work
feels like much ado about nothing. Thatís likely the reason itís never been
adapted by the quickly idea-lacking Hollywood hit machine. Even if the
romantic endeavors are upped, and the feminist substance is highlighted,
this could never be made into anything more than a paltry British version of
Gone with the Wind.
Thus, Mira Nair, the fine director behind Monsoon Wedding, proves that a
film version is destined for failure. Her Vanity Fair, no matter how much
she tries to increase its elements of British colonialism (as if there
wasnít enough) and the lionization of the East Indian colony for Brits, is a
mess. The characters are mostly simplistic, their real reasons for existence
boiled down in a couple scenes of negligent exposition; the sets are largely
overwrought with trinkets, often overshadowing the drama taking place in
them; and the dialogue is quote heavy, a Cliffs Notes version of the
original text but without any essay on the context.
Vanity Fair is pretty to look at, but its cosmetic achievements are barely
enough to keep this vessel afloat. Without the ability to set the book to
the side, get a snack, and resume the inane banter, the drama feels
unpleasantly repetitive. An adaptation of the last issue of Vanity Fair
magazine would have probably been more interesting.