Gabriel Byrne as The Marquess of Steyne
Roger Lloyd-Pack as Francis Sharp
Ruth Sheen as Miss Pinkerton
Kate Fleetwood as Miss Pinkerton’s Crone
Reese Witherspoon as Becky Sharp
Lillete Dubey as Ms. Green
Romola Garai as Amelia Sedley
Tony Maudsley as Joseph Sedley
Deborah Findlay as Mrs. Sedley
John Franklyn-Robbins as Mr. Sedley
Paul Bazely as Biju
Rhys Ifans as William Dobbin
Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as George Osborne
Young Becky Sharp (Reese Witherspoon) is the daughter of a French “opera girl” and a starving portrait painter. After the death of her parents, Becky is sent to a girls finishing school to be a scullery maid. While there, she grows to maturity and learns the etiquette of high society and also becomes best friends with Amelia Sedley (Romola Garai), the daughter of a wealthy business man.
Becky is a social climber. She is determined not to live her life in the poverty that she was born into, and she is willing to do almost anything in order to avoid it. Despite Reese Witherspoon’s charm, this makes her a rather unsympathetic protagonist, and it is hard to wish for her to succeed. Therein lies Vanity Fair’s biggest failure: the movie parades a host of superficial characters across the screen that nobody can feel empathy for.
However, the film is done in a grand and lavish style. Set designers Sam Stokes and Lucinda Thomson joined costume designer Beatrix Aruna Pasztor to bring director Mira Nair’s image of William Thackeray’s novel to life. The costumes went from frumpy rich to glamorous exotic; the sets ranged from dingy hovel to regal palace; all of which were done expertly. Add to that, the beautiful cinematography by Declan Quinn and you have a truly beautiful picture to look at.
The rest of the technical aspects of the movie are also handled well. The score feels period 1800’s with a mixture of classical music and modern interpretations of it. The special effects, what little there are, are also handled well.
Who should see this movie? Anyone that has a passion for period manner plays should love this movie. It is filled with stuffy, back-stabbing, snobbish people. There is little action. At one point, the battle of Waterloo looms in the background – the only part of it presented is the loud report of cannons and smoke over the horizon. There are a few funny moments, all verbal and at the expense of other characters. For someone looking for a love story, there are plenty here to choose from. The movie revolves around Becky Sharp, but she vacillates between being too sweet to be the villain you love to hate and being to conniving and chaotic to be an underdog hero. Overall, if eye-candy is what you want and enjoy, then you will be happy; if you are looking for characters to root for and relate to, you might be disappointed.