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Friday, June 6, 2008

VANITY FAIR (2004)

While its understandable that Mira Nair fights against being pigeon-holed as an Indian filmmaker, she has never recaptured the cultural/emotional specificity that made MONSOON WEDDING such a richly stuffed yet perfectly proportioned entertainment. In this solid if attitudinally modernized adaptation, she alternates the comical ruthlessness of Regency period mores with conventional sentiment & emotion. This seriously undercuts Thackeray’s originality in merging these opposing forces into that unstoppable engine of social change, Becky Sharp. Reese Witherspoon makes like Nicole Kidman's kid sister to medium effect while Gabriel Byrne refines his usual vampire act with vocal inflections snatched from the current Prince Charles. He's funnier than he's ever been. But it’s left to those nasty old stage actresses (Eileen Atkins & Geraldine McEwan) to steal all their scenes and provide a bit of mannered verisimilitude.

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