To speak with Mira Nair is to enjoy the workings of a remarkable mind, one full of humor, intelligence, and a passionate enthusiasm for the art of storytelling. It’s that last that shines through her adapation of Thackery’s “Vanity Fair”, a rollicking tale of a society tottering between two paradigms. While the conversation rarely strayed from the gargantuan task of getting the novel to the screen, it revealed much about Nair’s philosophy of filmmaking and, by extension, of life, as well as the courage of star Reese Witherspoon when facing a spicy challenge.
Mira Nair’s telling of Thackery’s classic, VANITY FAIR, is a lush, sprawling, sensual film that totters unevenly under the weight of its own ambition. Its an apt metaphor considering that its heroine, Becky Sharpe, has the same Achilles Heel. Blithely skipping through so many decades of necessity leads to a feeling of sketchiness in some details and characters. At its core, Witherspoon is irresistible, overcoming the weak parts of the story with a knowing tilt of her head and eyes that blaze with equal parts righteous indignation and naked ambition. Later, in my favorite moment, its the same tilt, the same intelligence, but beneath a veil covered in stars, tempered with the hard-won wisdom her life has given her as she encounters her past literally walking up to her. If theres bound to be more than one comparison between a tearful stairway farewell that comes much earlier in this film and a similar one in GONE WITH THE WIND, never mind. This is a rich experience with much sound, a great deal of fury, and ultimately, much significance.