Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray
How can I deal with temptations? Answer
Should I save sex for marriage? Answer
What are the consequences of sexual immorality? Answer
|Featuring:||Reese Witherspoon, Jim Broadbent, Eileen Atkins, James Purefoy, Jonathan Rhys Meyers|
“All’s fair in love and war”
Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “Despite her poverty-stricken background, Becky Sharp (Reese Witherspoon) ascends London’s social ladder. Based on the classic novel by William Makepeace Thackeray.”
The costumes were stunning. I felt as though I were in the world of the early 19th century. The “parlez” was impeccable; spoken with the flair of the English upper crust with snooty “classe.” La notion was to be all that “Vanity Fair” should be as told by William Makepeace Thackeray, but alas the spirit of schemer and social climber Becky Sharp was “tres ordinaire!”
Thackeray himself stated of his novel that he “(wanted) to leave everybody dissatisfied and unhappy at the end of the story,” but we are treated to director Mira Nair’s formula happy ending. I would have preferred the pathos of the original novel. In this version I couldn’t make out if I was watching a drama or a comedy. The audience was shuffled from near tears to comedic narrative jumps. This film had all the ingredients for an epic costume drama akin to Gone With The Wind, but just never got going. Never the less, I enjoyed myself and Reese Witherspoon has shown she is capable of a more meaty part, although she hasn’t quite found her nitch yet.
Rebecca Sharp (a too good hearted Reese Witherspoon) has been orphaned and sent to a girl’s boarding school/orphanage where she secures a strong friendship with sweet Amelia (a tragic Romola Garai) who invites Becky to a visit in her home before she goes off to her new job of governess to a family of slovenly aristocrats. While in Amelia’s circle of family and well-to-do friends Becky spies her way to the top by setting her sights on Amelia’s world traveling brother Jos (a clueless Tony Maudsley) and almost nabs him but for the strict objections of Amelia’s elite family.
Miss Sharp is shipped off to the seedy digs of Sir Pitt Crawley (a perfectly nasty Bob Hoskins) as Governess to his children and wins the day by pulling his home together to impress his wealthy spinster Aunt Matilda (the best performance in this movie by Eileen Atkins). Becky impresses Aunt Matilda more than her own family and Matilda decides to take Becky under her wing. They travel to London where Becky learns just what she needs to know about high society and how to get her way in it.
When Becky marries Matilda’s dashing soldier/gambler nephew Rawdon Crawley (James Purefoy) and has his child, he is written out of Aunt Matilda’s will. We just couldn’t have the lower class mingling with the pure of blood, even if Aunt Matilda originally liked Becky to begin with. There is a limit to her kindness and shows how conceit and intolerance destroys all those in their path.
Meanwhile, Amelia weds the flirtatious George Osborne (a shallow character done well by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) and in turn George is banished from his father’s fortune because of this unapproved marriage. Monsieur Osborne is adamant that his son marry into wealth at any cost and shows that his vain and shallow goals lead to heartbreak when his son is killed in the Battle of Waterloo without ever knowing his father’s love for him.
With the disinheritance and poverty biting at their heels, Becky sees no other way to prosperity but to seek out the dangerous and powerful Marquess of Steyne (an eerie and ruthless Gabriel Byrne) for assistance. He is more than happy to pay off her debts and set her up in high society, but at a price. Hoping to alleviate all their woes Becky only creates a void between herself and Rawdon who in the end leaves her going back to soldiering and eventually dying of fever in a far away land never knowing how much Becky has given up to rescue their material worth.
Although done well with a beautiful emphasis on period costume and design, “Vanity Fair” left me wishing it had a richness to the fabric of it’s characters as well. Even though it was meant to be poignant it didn’t bring the viewer into the character’s lives as deeply as needed to truly sympathize with their plights. Instead of “delicieux” it was “c’est damage.”
Although sex was alluded to, no love scenes were objectionable because they were few, didn’t show any “skin” and were consistent with the story. There were no swear words in this film. The PG-13 rating was bestowed because of these points, but parents should be cautioned to discuss what betrayal and lust for material excess means. Especially in our world today kids are learning that self-worth is only achieved by education and possessions without giving a thought to God’s direction or unconditional, self sacrificing love.
Knowing God loves us and will provide all our needs would have been a blessing to Becky. By His provision we need not take matters into our own hands and believe we must do wrong to make things right. As Becky found out, selfish notions and thinking there is some mystic power in sexuality to get what we want or need only leads to heartache. The characters in the world of “Vanity Fair” are confused and full of fear without the Holy Spirit, The Comforter. First John 4:4 declares “Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” Teach your little ones to go to God with all their worries, problems and human needs through prayer. If Becky Sharp knew Him, perhaps her life would not have been in a grand castle or high society, but I know her life would have been full and her love complete.
Through this film we wallow in exoticism, love, war, betrayal, decadence and battles with pride and of course “vanity” which is not at all “fair.” The spoiled upper classes living in sumptuous excess is richly captured at best and a touch of soap opera at worst, “Vanity Fair” depicts for us the nature of greed and sin—how the hopes of material wealth, selfishness, vanity and a heart void of God can separate us from and even destroy those we should love, honor and cherish.
In real life, many people run after things believing they will fill them up and make them whole—only to find these pursuits are empty and unfulfilling. Only Jesus can fill the void in our lives and bring true happiness and fulfillment! Although this novel and film are fictional, they ring true with the sorrows of all people obsessed with getting everything at any cost—“…and then I’ll be happy.” I pray that viewers will understand that this film personifies that empty quest. Psalm 19:7-11 says it best.
Violence: Mild / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: Moderate