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Film Adaptations: Vanity Fair

Over the weekend, I watched Vanity Fair, the 2004 film adaptation of Thackeray’s novel. I read the novel about six years ago, when I was fresh out of high school, and I was curious to see how the movie stacked up. It's cases like these that the say is true that the book is always better than the movie--especially when the book in question is a classic. Of course, you can't always expect the movie to quite stack up to the book, but I must say that I was disappointed by this adaptation.

Reese Witherspoon plays Becky Sharpe, the orphan girl who aspires to rise higher than her station in life. She then spends time with her friend Amelia’s Sedley’s family, along with Amelia’s fiancée, the arrogant George Osbourne (played by a beautiful but miscast Jonathan Rhys Myers). Later, Becky goes to be the governess for the Crawleys, where she meets Rawdon and runs away with him. Becky’s tale gets overshadowed in the second half of both the novel and the movie as Napoleon threatens to invade.

The exoticness of India and the bucolic setting of England make fine contrasts for one another, and the costumes in this period piece are beautiful (though oddly enough, in this movie, fashions don't change from the 1810s to the 1830s, and the characters don't seem to age much, either). But the actors seem a little too modern at times (especially Reese Witherspoon). The tone of Thackeray's novel was sarcastic at times, and the character of Jos Sedley was so ridiculous that he was actually pathetic. Here, he's just another bland, boring character. George Osbourne was much more malicious in the novel. It’s a very watered-down version of the book, especially since Becky in this movie is shown to be a sympathetic character. And it just doesn’t work. Through this movie, the whole point of the novel was missed out on completely.


kristen said…
I agree with your review of the movie -- did you like the novel? I was disappointed with both...

The characterization of the movie was off... How could Becky be sympathetic!?! :)
Trish said…
I DID like the movie, BUT I haven't read the book. I would really really like to, but that 800 pages is a little daunting. I agree, though, that if I've read the book first, I rarely like the movie as much.
NotJustLaura said…
Thanks for this review. You've convinced me to read the book rather than see the film though!

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