Vanity Fair

Directed by Mira Nair

> > Feb 2005

Vanity Fair - Directed by Mira Nair
By Vish KhannaIn spite of a remarkable performance by Reese Witherspoon and director Mira Nair's flair for visually stunning costumes and sets, there is little else that is compelling about Vanity Fair. A period piece set in 19th century England, the story follows impoverished orphan Becky Sharp (Witherspoon) as she schemes her way up the social ladder. In the "behind the scenes" featurette "Welcome to Vanity Fair," the predominately female cast and crew explain how Sharp is actually a heroine for her morally questionable actions. As women were given little or no status in this heavily class-based period, characters like Sharp realised that the only way to secure true financial security was to marry into it. Thus, Sharp attempts to seduce and charm her way into a wealthy family dynamic, which alternately elicits acceptance and suspicion from those around her. While Sharp should be the kind of trickster figure that endears herself to her audience, the film's cool demeanour prevents any real engagement between the viewer and the action on-screen. The radical, imperceptible temporal shifts don't help matters, as characters appear the same while the plot suggests much time has elapsed (i.e., Sharp has a baby without appearing pregnant). As if the plot isn't dense enough to begin with, these intertwined turns only confuse matters further. If the unfocussed story loses you, the film can still be appreciated for its eye-catching scenery. Best known for her work directing Monsoon Wedding, Nair infuses this film with bold colours via its costumes and sets that lend each scene the emotional atmosphere that the action requires. It's not quite enough to save the film from its convoluted plot, however it does speak to Nair's unique signature style as a director. Plus: "The Women Behind Vanity Fair," director's commentary, deleted scenes. (Alliance Atlantis)
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