> Volume 6 > Number 28


Mira Nair

Reese Witherspoon
James Purefoy
Romola Garai
Jonathan Rhys-Meyers
Gabriel Byrne
Jim Broadbent
Rhys Ifans
Bob Hoskins

Release: 1 Sep. 04

Vanity Fair


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

©2004, David Perry,, 9 July 2004