Vanity Fair 2004

Critics score:
51 / 100

Reviews provided by RottenTomatoes

Terry Lawson, 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. Read more

Connie Ogle, Miami Herald: No longer a biting, satirical jab at 19th century English society but a somewhat soppy soap opera about social climbing and romance. Read more

Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times: A pared-down but wonderfully cluttered rendition of Thackeray's work, beautifully acted by a dream troupe of performers. Read more

Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune: Graced with Nair's loving direction, Witherspoon's radiance and that great cast, it is a treat, if somewhat less so than the novel. Read more

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle: A lot of things happen, all of it fairly absorbing, some of it rendered vividly. Read more

Richard Roeper, Ebert & Roeper: Very nice piece of work. Read more

Eleanor Ringel Gillespie, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Like her heroine, [Nair's] movie bewitches, but lacks bite. Read more

Bill Muller, Arizona Republic: 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. Read more

Ty Burr, Boston Globe: 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? Read more

Carina Chocano, Los Angeles Times: A never-ending Western story that benefits from Nair's philosophically Eastern point of view. Read more

Bruce Westbrook, Houston Chronicle: Nair navigates narrative waters littered by a shipwreck's worth of detritus; too many characters bob and sink. Read more

Paul Clinton (, A highly satisfying period-style soap opera with heaving bosoms, elaborate hairdos and a sweeping look at history. Read more

Lisa Kennedy, Denver Post: The company (in particular Witherspoon, James Purefoy and Eileen Atkins) is better than pleasant, even when it is behaving badly. Read more

Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly: 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. Read more

Liam Lacey, 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. Read more

Philip Wuntch, Dallas Morning News: A magnificent viewing experience, with each costume and set capturing the grandeur and squalor of both England and India. Read more

Ron Stringer, L.A. Weekly: Nair's turgid, melodramatic travesty of Thackeray's gimlet-eyed satire. Read more

John Anderson, Newsday: As a film, Vanity Fair has a lot going for it -- including acting and energy. Read more

Peter Rainer, New York Magazine/Vulture: Read more

Lisa Rose, Newark Star-Ledger: 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. Read more

Jack Mathews, 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. Read more

Rex Reed, New York Observer: It's lavish but lulling, and at two hours and 18 minutes, it's something of a bore. Read more

Stephen Holden, 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. Read more

Andrew Sarris, New York Observer: A less than absorbing adaptation of Thackeray's sprawling but sharp-witted classic. Read more

Jay Boyar, Orlando Sentinel: [Nair] clearly loves these characters, the kind and unkind alike. And the proof of this is that she makes them all so marvelously vivid. Read more

James Berardinelli, ReelViews: A charming movie that falls short of greatness, but is still worth a solid recommendation. Read more

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times: 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. Read more

Charles Taylor, Scene by scene and moment to moment, it's a woeful misreading of the book. Read more

David Edelstein, Slate: We're left with an increasingly weak-willed protagonist and a narrative with no driving force -- no motor. Read more

Jeff Strickler, Minneapolis Star Tribune: On the whole, Nair has mounted a handsome and intelligent production that holds nothing back. Read more

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Read more

Peter Howell, Toronto Star: Lively and mostly successful treatment -- at least until the barbs are blunted in the messy third act. Read more

Richard Schickel, TIME Magazine: There is no depth beneath its bright surfaces, no potent emotional undercurrents. Read more

Time Out: Read more

Claudia Puig, USA Today: By film's end, audiences are bound to be left dissatisfied with the choppy and confusing storytelling style and unhappy about the missed opportunity. Read more

Todd McCarthy, Variety: A collection of intermittent pleasures than a satisfying emotional repast. Read more

Leslie Camhi, Village Voice: The pacing feels choppy, and the characters' emotions are sometimes too sudden to be believable. Read more

Stephen Hunter, Washington Post: Witherspoon's simply terrific, and it's amazing how quickly and easily she sheds speculation that she was too modern for the role. Read more

Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post: 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. Read more