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My ""Vanity Fair" DVD Review

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My ""Vanity Fair" DVD Review

Old 02-09-05, 12:31 PM
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My ""Vanity Fair" DVD Review

Vanity Fair
PG-13 / 141 min
with Reese Witherspoon

a review by Tom Hansen
February 09, 2005

Set in early 19th century Europe, this film shows the tragic upbringing of a young orphan girl, forced to scheme her way to the top as she looks out for herself.

The Story
Rebecca Sharp is an orphan just trying to make it in the world of early 19th century Europe. Her father, a very accomplished painter died when she was young and so she was sent to an all-girls school to assist with cleaning as well as get brought up properly as a young girl should. She finally gets out to go with her best friend and possibly marry the older brother when a whirlwind of activity throws this young lady into the midst of relationships, family squabbles, and eventually marriage. Backstabbing friends and family quickly lets her move up the social ladder but there are always more manipulative people the deal with. Children are not far off, but so are major financial problems which Becky tries desperately to fix by allowing an older married man to settle her husbands debts. However the debts are not so easily paid off and the man requires more from Becky than she originally bargained for.
There were a few points in the movie that reminded me of ‘Gone with the Wind’ and you find out in one of the DVD extras that the character of Becky Sharp was actually a great influence for the timeless classic.

The Experience

The picture was nice, albeit a little bit soft for my taste. I think it fit the era of the film rather well and ended up being something you forgot about after getting into the movie, The costumes were well done and befitting the time in history, as was the locations the film was shot. All in all the filmmaking looked pretty well done. Shots were composed well and the actors seemed to get into their characters as can be expected.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix sounded good, and while most of the dialogue came from the front speakers, there were a few sounds such as horse hooves and chatter that flittered across the back that helped make it a little more realistic.

As with other films of this nature, namely ‘Pride and Prejudice’, and ‘Sense and Sensibility’, it did not take me long to get bored (my wife loves it when I call films a “snooze-a-thon”). However to be fair, about an hour and 45 minutes into the film, my wife was beginning to watch the clock and ask me how long the film was supposed to be. This is not an action packed film, nor is it a very easy story-line to follow. To truly keep up with the numerous characters and plot twists you really have to be on your toes, and I usually don’t watch movies to stay on my toes...I tend to want them to sweep me away from reality and allow me to absorb all that they have to throw at me. Thinking too much during non-suspense movies is just plain too much work in my opinion.

The Features

I always enjoy seeing previews for Focus Features. They tend to put out a lot of non-mainstream films that I generally find refreshing. Eventually the Main Title Screen showed up, which I thought too way too long to load.
The deleted scenes were pretty good. I particularly liked the alternate opening sequence, which I personally found a little better than the one that made it into the film. Other deleted scenes were not all that earth-shattering and I’m glad they didn’t add to the drudgery of the film. The alternate ending was not befitting the vain character of Becky Sharp. She made too much of a turnaround and the original ending worked a lot better. I’m glad they left it out.

A making-of featurette was good. I appreciated all the comments from the director and actors, and it allowed me to understand the movie a little more, though it wasn’t enough to sway my tastes or decision.

The Verdict

After the first 15 minutes of the film, I was already asking my wife what was going on and trying to understand the 10+ characters that had already been introduced. The subtle nuances of English (early English at that) humor are difficult to keep up with and it really helps to understand the hierarchy of English life back then.

Reese Witherspoon is a very good actress that did good job with her character, but I did find her a little too conniving for my taste. I understand that her character was forced to do certain things in order to make it in this world, but the constant backstabbing got old fast. While it did portray her character as a woman who will do what it takes to make it in the world, I had a hard time grasping onto her exact moral compass and really didn’t trust her. That made it hard for me to feel compassion for her character.
Vanity Fair wasn’t a bad film; I did watch the entire thing and felt generally good about it after it all ended, but this kind of film is just not for me. My wife, who generally loves these kinds of films had a hard time following the plot and pretty much lost interest halfway through the film, For me, it was just another “Senseless Senility...I mean Sense and Sensibility”...

2/5 Stars
-Tom Hansen

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