Reviews provided by RottenTomatoes
Detroit Free Press:
Even with a running time of more than 2 hours, this kind of condensation means we race through the story's second half in a time warp not aided by Nair's garish, out-of-nowhere and out-of-place Indian interludes.
No longer a biting, satirical jab at 19th century English society but a somewhat soppy soap opera about social climbing and romance.
A pared-down but wonderfully cluttered rendition of Thackeray's work, beautifully acted by a dream troupe of performers.
Graced with Nair's loving direction, Witherspoon's radiance and that great cast, it is a treat, if somewhat less so than the novel.
Though it's an accomplished production, Vanity Fair ranks as a standard costume drama populated by snide old biddies, aging lords and ladies, manipulative business barons and dashing soldiers.
A Vanity Fair with a lovable Becky Sharp has no reason to exist. It's as if Shakespeare had put Hamlet on Prozac: What's the point?
Los Angeles Times:
A never-ending Western story that benefits from Nair's philosophically Eastern point of view.
Nair navigates narrative waters littered by a shipwreck's worth of detritus; too many characters bob and sink.
Paul Clinton (CNN.com),
A highly satisfying period-style soap opera with heaving bosoms, elaborate hairdos and a sweeping look at history.
The company (in particular Witherspoon, James Purefoy and Eileen Atkins) is better than pleasant, even when it is behaving badly.
Against such bedraggled antagonists, the older, well-seasoned character actors -- among them Bob Hoskins, Jim Broadbent, and Geraldine McEwan -- come on bright but loud, like gangbusters.
Globe and Mail:
This might be tolerable if Nair hadn't missed the central point, that Becky Sharp isn't sharp like spice, she's sharp like a razor.
Dallas Morning News:
A magnificent viewing experience, with each costume and set capturing the grandeur and squalor of both England and India.
Nair's turgid, melodramatic travesty of Thackeray's gimlet-eyed satire.
As a film, Vanity Fair has a lot going for it -- including acting and energy.
Instead of a sly critique of hypocrisy and pretense in all social classes, the film is a stodgy, unremarkable costume drama with all the bite of a poodle.
New York Daily News:
Crams in so many of the events and characters of Thackeray's 900-page novel that the story often seems to be moving on fast-forward.
New York Times:
With its diminished gravitas, this Becky comes across as a lightweight schemer about as formidable as an aspiring trophy wife on a daytime soap.
[Nair] clearly loves these characters, the kind and unkind alike. And the proof of this is that she makes them all so marvelously vivid.
A charming movie that falls short of greatness, but is still worth a solid recommendation.
The peculiar quality of Vanity Fair, which sets it aside from the Austen adaptations such as Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, is that it's not about very nice people. That makes them much more interesting.
Scene by scene and moment to moment, it's a woeful misreading of the book.
We're left with an increasingly weak-willed protagonist and a narrative with no driving force -- no motor.
Lively and mostly successful treatment -- at least until the barbs are blunted in the messy third act.
There is no depth beneath its bright surfaces, no potent emotional undercurrents.
By film's end, audiences are bound to be left dissatisfied with the choppy and confusing storytelling style and unhappy about the missed opportunity.
A collection of intermittent pleasures than a satisfying emotional repast.
The pacing feels choppy, and the characters' emotions are sometimes too sudden to be believable.
Witherspoon's simply terrific, and it's amazing how quickly and easily she sheds speculation that she was too modern for the role.
Witherspoon moves director Mira Nair's version of Thackeray's social satire forward at a good clip, making Becky's rising and falling fortunes an intensely watchable spectator sport.