a review by Jeffrey Overstreet
Mira Nair’s film adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel Vanity Fair is complicated by two simple problems.
One: It tries to cram far too much story into 141-minutes. We barely get acquainted with a crowd of characters and a context, and then we’re rushed ahead through time to a different place, a different crowd of characters, and a whole new set of melodramatic crises. Thus we eventually quit trying to get our bearings and we just watch, increasingly detached, wondering what catastrophe will happen next.
Two: The storytellers can’t decide whether we should sympathize with the heroine or cheer for her clever, manipulative, sometimes ruthless endeavors to gain status, position, and wealth. Is she a heroine at all? Should we be aghast at her heartless behavior… or should we pity her and blame her circumstances for her wrongdoing?