London 1802 and having already lost her mother Becky Sharp (Angelica Mandy/Reese Witherspoon) is soon made an orphan when her father, an artist, dies and she ends up in Miss Pinkerton's Academy for Young Ladies. Years later and with her best friend Amelia Sedley (Romola Garai) she leaves Miss Pinkerton's to become governess to baronet Sir Pitt Crawley's (Bob Hoskins) daughters, stopping off to meet Amelia's family on the way where she has to deal with social prejudice. It is the start of a journey up the social ladder alongside her friend Amelia.
I have mentioned many times in the past that I am not a great reader and the only classic we had to read in school was "Macbeth" so it should be of little surprise when I say I have never read William Makepeace Thackeray's "Vanity Fair". But lack of literary knowledge never deters me from watching a movie even if it is one very much outside of my comfort zone and so that brings be to "Vanity Fair" starring Reese Witherspoon. Unfortunately it seems you need to have read Thackeray's novel in order to fill in the gaps of what comes across as an abruptly episodic story.
The thing is from what I grasped from "Vanity Affair" it is an entertaining story but because it is episodic and abrupt as I watched I got a sense that certain aspects were left out and unless you already knew the story some of it didn't completely make sense. The knock on effect of this is that if you struggle with following the narrative it becomes a visual movie with the camera adoring both Reese Witherspoon's glistening eyes and heaving bosom. I suppose what I am saying is that for those who haven't read the original story it is still entertaining but more as visual entertainment with a great look, bright costumes, impressive sets and so on.
That brings me to the acting and it has to be said that "Vanity Fair" does have an impressive cast with recognizable actors in even the smallest of parts such as Ruth Sheen as Miss Pinkerton. But of course the star of the movie is Reese Witherspoon and she is striking, pulling off a beautifully visual performance which allows those struggling with the story and dialogue to read her intentions through the look on her face. It is the same with the rest of the cast but it is Witherspoon who constantly grabs your attention.
What this all boils down to is that "Vanity Fair" whilst entertaining on a visual level didn't really capture me like I had hoped and it is a case that to full enjoy the movie you already need to know the story. But it makes me wonder whether those who have read the story will be that pleased as I would imagine there have been some major changes to the original story to make it work as a movie.