Vanity Fair (2004) Movie Review

By: Alex Phuong (Three Beers) –

Reese Witherspoon has had a very interesting career ever since her break-out hit Legally Blonde premiered in the summer of 2001.  Since then, she has won an Academy Award for playing June Carter in Walk the Line (2005) and received a nomination for playing Cheryl Strayed in Wild (2014).  Some people might not know that Witherspoon has actually played literary characters, including Cecily, a role in The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde in 2002.  A year before the release of Walk the Line, Witherspoon actually tackled one of the most controversial characters ever written, the relentless Becky Sharp, as she attempts to climb the social ladder within nineteenth century British society.

A Toast

Even though it did not receive any major nominations from the Academy nor the Hollywood Foreign Press, this film features spectacular costumes.  There are both beautiful British ball gowns along with exotic Indian-style attire.  Perhaps the reason why there are exotic belly dancers in this film is because of a historical reference to the colonization of India during the mid-nineteenth century.  Without a doubt, this film is full of eye candy.

Beer Two

Since this is not one of the Reese Witherspoon’s most popular films, a possible reason is because this film does not feature her greatest performance.  She was actually more memorable as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde than playing such a devious literary figure.  Witherspoon might have wanted to play an iconic character, but her performance ultimately (and unfortunately) falls flat.

Beer Three

Like many film adaptations of great literature, there are obviously numerous changes.  A considerable part of the novel is absent from the film.  Then again, there is only so much that Hollywood could do when adapting a novel that is about 800 pages long, and compressing all of the action into a two-and-a-half hour spectacle.  The beauty of this film really is superficial because the design is gorgeous, while the writing and the screenplay make fans of the novel want to gag.


Vanity Fair is not exactly the best film adaptation ever, but Hollywood has always had this problem ever since the inception of cinema.  Sometimes Hollywood executives want to make a feature film in order to showcase glamour rather than do a novel justice.  Reese Witherspoon is also still doing a variety of films today, so maybe this minor misstep did not really hurt her career that much.  Just like the tagline for this film, “All is fair in love and war.”

Vanity Fair (2004) Drinking Game

Take a Drink: every time Becky Sharp wears a beautiful outfit

Take a Drink: every time there is an elaborate sequence (such as war scenes and the Indian belly dancing scenes)

Drink a Shot: every time the color red appears on-screen

About Alex Phuong

Alex Andy Phuong earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from California State University-Los Angeles in 2015. His love affair with cinema began after discovering Turner Classic Movies in the summer of 2004. His favorite film director is Woody Allen, and his favorite movie star is Kate Winslet.

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