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Vanity Fair

All's Fair In Love And War 

Year: 2004 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: Unknown 
Certificate: BBFC PG Cert – Parental guidance 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair follows Becky Sharp (Witherspoon) as she schemes her way up the social ladder of Victorian London. Despite her impoverished beginnings, Becky’s wit and acid tongue quickly launch her into the upper echelons of society. However even her marriage to the gallant Rawdon Crawley does not secure her future, together they struggle through war and debt. Becky’s story is contrasted with the meek but kindly Amelia (Garai) who is desperately trying to hold onto her husband George (Rhys-Meyers) in the face of hostile opposition from his father (Broadbent) and the ravages of the Napoleonic war. Drawing on the book Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray, this is a tale of tragedy, comedy, love, war and above all perseverance.       

There are several impressive set pieces in Vanity Fair; particularly the dilapidated mansion owned by an equally dishevelled Sir Pitt Crawley (Hoskins) and a grand ball in Brussels on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo. The entire film is infused with Indian influences, not surprisingly, as it is helmed by the director of Monsoon Wedding. The main premise behind Vanity Fair is to recognise the effect British colonialism in India had on British culture. This is something that comes directly from Vanity Fair’s literary source material. Touches reminiscent of India are dotted throughout; a parrot here, an elephant there as well as spice rich colours and exotic costumes. Nair effectively recreates Victorian society in all its snobbish vanity with Becky Sharp at the centre flouting with conventions in her relentless quest for acceptance. Reece Witherspoon, fashioning an excellent British accent and a heaving bosom, brings gusto to her role as Becky Sharp, a character very different from the ones she is better known for. Witherspoon is handsomely supported by such stalwarts as Hoskins and Broadbent, as well as the up and coming talent of Garai and Rhys-Meyers.

Helen Appleyard     

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Screenings of this film:

2004/2005 Summer Term (35mm)