Vanity Fair (PG)
Time Out saysIf ever actress and role were meant for one another it’s Reese Witherspoon and Becky Sharp, the self-seeking charmer from Thackeray’s 1847 social satire. You could say she’s played the ruthless manipulator already – in ‘Election’, devastating the decent on her upward climb with perfectly judged lethal seductiveness. Now here she is in full regency fig with a ‘Who’s Who’ of the British acting profession, and the result is long-winded, blunt and flat. What’s gone wrong?
It may be the reallocation of the screenplay from Matthew Faulk and Mark Skeet (whose long labour of love the project was) to the marketable Julian Fellowes, best known for his cloth-eared sense of period in ‘Gosford Park’ where he made Ivor Novello sing (the real Novello notoriously couldn’t and wouldn’t, even in his own musicals). It may be director Mira Nair (‘Monsoon Wedding’), taking revenge for decades of Western misrepresentation of the subcontinent – Thackeray’s (and, come to that, Brighton Pavilion’s) Indian references get wildly out of proportion, and a nautch-girl routine for the Prince Regent is grotesquely out of style. Hollywood plus Bollywood influences don’t leave much room for any sense of British society discovering greed is good, while paying lip service to conventional morality, against the seismic political upheavals of the Napoleonic wars. An opportunity lost.
Witherspoon is basically too nice as Becky, as if frightened of losing our sympathy, and a host of sterling players (Jim Broadbent, Bob Hoskins, Geraldine McEwan) exude a sense of occasion, longing for better roles to get their teeth into. By no means unintelligent, it looks good; but the impression remains that it’s all dressed up with nowhere to go.
Fri Jan 14, 2005