tek's rating: ½

Vanity Fair (PG-13)
Focus Features; IMDb; Rotten Tomatoes; TV Tropes; Universal; Wikipedia
streaming sites: Amazon; Google Play; iTunes; Movies Anywhere; Peacock; Vudu; YouTube

This is based on a novel which I've never read. The main character is Rebecca "Becky" Sharp, who's played throughout most of the film by Reese Witherspoon. However, before that we see a scene set in 1802, when Becky is about ten, and her father, a painter, sells a portrait he'd done of his late wife, to someone named Lord Steyne. (He'll show up again much later in the movie and cause some complications.) Becky didn't want the painting to be sold, as it's all she had by which to remember her mother. Anyway, the scene soon changes to sometime following her father's death, when she was taken in by Miss Pinkerton's Academy for Young Ladies. We see none of her time there, however, as the film immediately flashes forward to Becky as a young woman. We quickly learn that her only friend at the Academy had been Amelia Sedley, with whom she now leaves to visit Amelia's family before going off to take a job as a governess, working for Sir Pitt Crawley. While visiting Amelia's family, she meets her brother Joseph "Jos" Sedley, an officer stationed in India. Becky and Jos seem to have an immediate liking for each other, but Jos is dissuaded from pursuing a relationship by another officer, Captain George Osborne (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), who is supposed to marry Amelia. Though there's another officer, George's friend Major William Dobbin (Rhys Ifans), who is secretly in love with Amelia (she knows nothing of this). Of course, George is pretty much an ass who doesn't really care about Amelia, but he feels he has no choice in the arranged marriage. (Anyway, I think it was arranged by his father, who later in the story wants George to marry someone else, but in a rare display of "honor," George refuses to go back on his word to Amelia, which estranges him from his father. But I'm getting ahead of myself.)

Well, Becky then goes to assume her position working for Sir Crawley, and we meet a few of his relatives, who honestly I couldn't keep straight. Though he did have a son named Rawdon, who is yet another officer. He shows up a bit later, with his elderly aunt Matilda, who is Sir Crawley's sister. Matilda doesn't seem to think highly of her brother or his family, but she takes an immediate liking to Becky, who she convinces Pitt to allow come with her back to London. Becky and Rawdon fall in love, but in spite of various things Matilda had said, such as not caring about social status, such notions were basically just talk, not her true beliefs, and so she disowned Rawdon. I should say, that while Sir Pitt had a title, he had very little money, while his sister had a great deal.

And, um... gosh, there are just so many characters, and I can't always remember who's related to whom, and in what manner, nor could I always follow everyone's changing fortunes. And the movie flashes forward several years, at least a couple more times... and I should say that while children grow up, none of the adult characters ever look to me like they age from the first time I saw them (except for the very first time leap, when Witherspoon first took the role of Becky, but again, that's just a child growing up). I must say, I liked the character of Becky Sharp from the first time I saw her, even in that first brief scene as a child. But over the course of the film, my opinion of her occasionally shifted somewhat. Most of the time I simply saw her as an intelligent, bold, witty, beautiful, decent woman (who also was a really good singer, presumably like her mother). But then there were times... well, listen. The whole movie is basically about the divide between classes, and between people with money and without it. Many of the noble families had fallen on hard times, while lower classes had become rich, and there was a recurring question of which was more important... money, or status imparted by birth. Of course, various people would look down on Becky, not being of noble birth, and might accuse her of being a social climber. Which is certainly true, though most of the time it didn't seem to me like she was being deliberate about it, or like there was anything wrong with it. But there were times... when I definitely think she was a deliberate opportunist, and perhaps didn't always adhere to her own standards. Or maybe I was just imagining she had any standards, after all. Still, I was always happy for her when she was doing well, and sorry for her when she wasn't. Even if I was occasionally disappointed in some of her choices. I was also disappointed throughout most of the movie that Amelia was so blind to George's true nature, as well as to William's feelings for her. And it's annoying that Becky or others so often had a chance to point out the truth to her, but didn't.

Anyway, I'm leaving out tons of details and important plot points. Don't want to spoil anything, not just the end but in fact a great deal of the movie. And then, as I said, I couldn't always keep everyone or everything that was going on straight in my head. But like I said, Becky was a really good character, and there were some great costumes and sets and all. Even an exotic belly dance at one point, performed by Becky and I guess various lords' wives... that was unexpected and entertaining. And there was some decent humor and drama and all that, throughout the film. Everyone did a good job of acting. I enjoyed watching the movie, but I don't feel the need to ever see it again. And I really doubt I'll remember much about it for very long....

period index