Vanity Fair (2004 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Vanity Fair
Vanity Fair 2004 poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mira Nair
Produced by Janette Day
Screenplay by Julian Fellowes
Matthew Faulk
Mark Skeet
Based on Vanity Fair
by William Makepeace Thackeray
Starring Reese Witherspoon
Jonathan Rhys Meyers
James Purefoy
Gabriel Byrne
Eileen Atkins
Bob Hoskins
Romola Garai
Jim Broadbent
Music by Mychael Danna
Cinematography Declan Quinn
Edited by Allyson C. Johnson
Distributed by Focus Features
Release date
September 1, 2004 (2004-09-01) (United States)
January 14, 2005 (2005-01-14) (United Kingdom)
Running time
141 minutes
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget $23 million
Box office $19,463,185

Vanity Fair is a 2004 British-American historical drama film directed by Mira Nair and adapted from William Makepeace Thackeray's novel of the same name. The novel has been the subject of numerous television and film adaptations, and Nair's version made notable changes in the development of main character Becky Sharp.

The film was nominated for "Golden Lion" Award in 2004 Venice Film Festival.


1802, London. The mysterious Lord Steyne (Gabriel Byrne) goes to a painter's studio where he has agreed to buy a painting of a young woman. The young Rebecca "Becky" Sharp (Reese Witherspoon), then a girl of ten, insists on having ten guineas, instead of four guineas, as the price of the painting. The painter explains that the model in the painting is Becky's mother, the painter's late wife. Steyne agrees to pay the higher amount and leaves with the painting. The young Becky is seen moving to Miss Pinkerton's Academy for Young Ladies after her father's death.

The now-adult Becky Sharp is preparing to leave the academy for a position as a governess. She travels by carriage to her new position, stopping on the way at the home of her best friend Amelia Sedley (Romola Garai) and her family. Amelia lives in a large estate as the daughter of a gentleman, though her father is not as wealthy as he appears. Becky meets Amelia's brother Joseph "Jos" Sedley (Tony Maudsley), who's stationed in India. Jos finds that Becky is interested in India. During an outing at Vauxhall, Becky meets Amelia's inattentive boyfriend, the dashing and self-obsessed Captain George Osborne (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), and his best friend, Captain William Dobbin (Rhys Ifans), who is secretly in love with Amelia. Jos is smitten with Becky, but in a private discussion, George convinces Jos to break off his attentions to the penniless girl. George is concerned that his father, a rich businessman who's a commoner, won't let him marry Amelia if Becky has also married into the Sedley family.

Becky enters the service of baronet Sir Pitt Crawley (Bob Hoskins), as a governess to his daughters. Sir Pitt has two sons, the pompous and pedantic elder son (Douglas Hodge), who also bears the name Pitt Crawley, and the dashing younger son, Captain Rawdon Crawley (James Purefoy). Sir Pitt is impressed with Becky's service, especially as Becky cleans up Sir Pitt's home to welcome his elder half-sister, Miss Matilda Crawley (Eileen Atkins). Miss Crawley is impressed with Becky, when she finds that Becky speaks French. Becky explains that her mother was French while her father was an artist. Miss Crawley takes Becky to live with her in London. In London, Becky begins to see Captain Rawdon Crawley. Sir Pitt shows up in London. His wife has died, and he asks Becky to marry him. Becky refuses, revealing that she's already secretly married to Captain Rawdon Crawley. The misalliance so enrages Miss Crawley that she throws Becky out and refuses to see the couple. Becky and Rawdon live in an apartment in London, and Becky reveals that she's pregnant, and suggests that the baby may help to reconcile them with Miss Crawley.

Meanwhile, Amelia's prospective father-in-law, Mr. Osborne (Jim Broadbent), is trying to arrange a new marriage for his son George. He introduces George to a young woman whose father made a fortune in Jamaica. George objects to the marriage as the woman is of mixed race. He insists that he's betrothed to Amelia, but Mr. Osborne insists that George marry the woman from Jamaica.

Amelia's father, John, goes bankrupt, and the Sedley household goods are sold at auction. Lord Steyne buys a landscape painted by Becky's father. Dobbin buys Amelia's piano and gives it back to her, but Amelia thinks it is a gift from George. George then elopes with Amelia, and Mr. Osborne disinherits him.

While these events take place, Napoleon has escaped from Elba and is once again in control of France. Rawdon, George, and Dobbin are suddenly deployed to Belgium as part of the Duke of Wellington's army. Becky and Amelia decide to accompany their husbands.

The newly-wedded Osborne is growing tired of Amelia, and he becomes increasingly attracted to Becky. At a ball in Brussels (based on the famous Duchess of Richmond's ball on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo), George gives Becky a note which she hides in her bodice. Amelia also attends the ball, but she becomes sick as the result of pregnancy. Rather than attend to his wife, George spends the evening dancing with Becky; Dobbin attends to Amelia instead. The ball is interrupted by an announcement that Napoleon has attacked, and the army will march in three hours.

Amelia has been deeply hurt by her husband's attentions toward Becky, but Becky reassures her that George would do nothing to hurt her. That night, Rawdon discusses his finances with Becky, giving her all the money he's won at cards. The next day, Becky tries to flee the city. One of the other Englishmen wants to buy her horse, and she agrees provided he gives her a seat in his carriage. However, when Becky sees Amelia in the fleeing mob, she leaves the carriage to take Amelia back to Brussels where they wait out the battle.

In the ensuing Battle of Waterloo, George is killed. Amelia bears him a posthumous son, who is also named George. Mr. Osborne refuses to acknowledge his grandson. So Amelia returns to live in genteel poverty with her parents. Now-Major William Dobbin, who is young George's godfather, begins to express his love for the widowed Amelia by small kindnesses. Amelia is too much in love with George's memory to return Dobbin's affections. Saddened, he transfers to an army post in India, to which Jos has already returned. Meanwhile, Becky also has a son, also named after his father. However, the army has been demobilized, and Rawdon, although now a colonel, has no income.

Several years pass. Miss Matilda Crawley and Sir Pitt Crawley have died, leaving the family fortune in the hands of Sir Pitt the Younger. Rawdon and Becky reconcile with the family, but it does little to help their finances. Rawdon is now in debt due to his gambling. However, Lord Steyne comes to the rescue. Steyne offers to re-introduce Becky into London society. At her first outing, however, all the women ignore her until Lady Steyne takes pity on her and asks her to sing a song. Becky's singing attracts the admiration of both sexes, and she's now accepted. Steyne arranges to send Becky's son, now around nine, to boarding school so he can have more time with her. Amelia agrees to turn her son over to her father-in-law who can give him a luxurious upbringing. Steyne arranges a bizarre entertainment for the king (the notorious womanizer George IV). Several noble ladies in highly revealing costumes perform a suggestive Indian nautch dance, with Becky as the star dancer. The king is pleased, and invites Becky to sit with him at dinner.

Rawdon is thrown into debtors' prison. Steyne tells Becky that he will arrange for Rawdon's bail, but not until the following day. His price for Rawdon's freedom is for her to sleep with him. Becky refuses, but Steyne tries to force himself on her. Rawdon returns at that moment, his debts having been paid by his family. He beats Lord Steyne and throws him down the stairs. However, Rawdon refuses to believe Becky when she insists that Steyne forced his attentions on her, and he leaves her. The army offers him a post as the garrison commander on Coventry Island, which he accepts.

Twelve years later, Becky is working as a card dealer at a casino in Baden-Baden in Germany. She meets the young George Osborne at a card table, who is traveling with his mother and Major William Dobbin. Dobbin tells Amelia he believes Becky killed Rawdon, but Amelia points out that Rawdon died of tropical fever.

Although Amelia is traveling with Dobbin, she still refuses to return his affections. Becky tells Amelia that she shouldn't be clinging to the memory of her late husband because George wasn't the saint she thought he was. To prove her point, Becky shows Amelia the letter that George had given her on the eve of Waterloo. Jos, who has been traveling with Major William Dobbin, is still enchanted by Becky. Becky marries Jos, and he takes her to India, where she had wanted to go.

Alternate ending[edit]

Becky Sharp arrives at the house of her brother-in-law, Sir Pitt Crawley the Younger. As Becky nears the house a servant questions her and tells her that Sir Pitt's funeral is being held there. While talking to the servant, Becky spots a young man and asks the servant who it is. He tells her it is the new baronet, Sir Rawdon Crawley (Robert Pattinson) - Becky's son. Sir Rawdon notices her and asks if there is any way he doesn't know who she is, Becky replies that she isn't sure he would want to help her if he knew who she was. Rawdon reveals that he knows who she is, and when Becky tries to reach out to him, he steps back. Becky then tries to convince him that she still loves him, even though she abandoned him. Sir Pitt's widow Lady Jane appears, in mourning, and Rawdon exclaims that "she [Becky] is here to claim me as her own." Lady Jane replies that he is. Rawdon says that it is too late for Becky to play the mother now, then turns and leaves. Lady Jane explains to Becky what has happened and leads her to Sir Pitt's grave. Lady Jane then makes a short speech, concluding "love is vanity's conqueror." During Jane's speech, Becky's son Sir Rawdon comes to stand behind her and takes her hand in his. The scene ends with Becky repeating Lady Jane's words.



The film adaptation of Vanity Fair had been in development for over 10 years, with writers Matthew Faulk and Mark Skeet working on the screenplay. Mira Nair became attached to the project in 2002 and scrapped most of the initial screenplay. She brought Julian Fellowes in to rewrite the film; he agreed with her that the character of Becky Sharp should be made more sympathetic than in the novel.[4] The ending was also changed, with Becky journeying to India with Joseph Sedley. The film had a budget of $23 million and originally was supposed to be in pre-production for 18 weeks. However, Reese Witherspoon became pregnant so it was necessary to speed up both pre-production and filming. Vanity Fair was shot in Bath, Kent, the Chatham Dockyard,[5] and at Stanway House in Gloucester.[4]


Critics gave the film mixed reviews. Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 53 out of 100, based on 41 reviews.[6] Rotten Tomatoes maintains this film with a 51% rating.

Stephen Hunter of The Washington Post gave a positive review, calling the movie "Mira Nair's fine movie version of the 1848 book, in all its glory and scope and wit."[7] In the Charlotte Observer, Lawrence Toppman commented that "The filmmakers have wisely retained the main structure of the book" and that "The cast is uniformly good, even when dealing with sudden mood changes forced by the screenwriters' need to move forward."[8] Meanwhile, Lisa Schwarzbaum, in her review in Entertainment Weekly, rated the film a B-, and added that "The dismaying switcheroo in director Mira Nair’s adaptation ... that Botoxes Thackeray’s riotous, unruly masterpiece, is that this "Vanity Fair" is, indeed, genteel and inoffensive. In fact, it borders on perky – a duller, safer tonal choice for the story of a conniving go-getter whose fall is as precipitous as her rise."[9]


Mira Nair, the director of the film, searched for good Indian musicians to compose a song for the album, and finally selected the trio Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy at the last minute. She showed them a rough footage of the situation she wanted them to compose for, which was the last few sequences of the film. The trio used tabla and several other Indian musical instruments for the song, without any synth, to give it an ethnic feel.[10] Nair asked lyricist Javed Akhtar, an old friend, to write the lyrics to convey the idea of a woman who has achieved all that she wanted and found her own voice - as exemplified by Becky when she goes to India. The song is written in the Rajasthani dialect.[11]

The song was sung by Shankar, accompanied by Richa Sharma. Jerry McCulley of Celtic Instruments described the song as "a sprightly duet",[12] while SoundtrackNet said the "aforementioned upbeat vocal number Gori Re" is enjoyable in its own way for one who enjoys Indian musical styles.[13]

Track # Song Artist(s) Music Duration
1 "She Walks in Beauty" Sissel Kyrkjebø Mychael Danna 1:59
2 "Exchange" Nicholas Dodd Mychael Danna 2:10
3 "Becky and Amelia Leave School" Nicholas Dodd Mychael Danna 1:26
4 "The Great Adventurer" Custer Larue Mychael Danna 2:05
5 "Becky Arrives at the Queen's Crawley" Nicholas Dodd Mychael Danna 1:43
6 "Andante" Nicholas Dodd Mychael Danna 1:08
7 "No Lights after Eleven" Nicholas Dodd Mychael Danna 2:48
8 "Adagio" Nicholas Dodd Mychael Danna 1:35
9 "I've Made up My Mind" Nicholas Dodd Mychael Danna 0:28
10 "Ride to London" Nicholas Dodd Mychael Danna 2:03
11 "Becky and Rawdon Kiss" Nicholas Dodd Mychael Danna 2:00
12 "Sir Pitt's Marriage Proposal" Nicholas Dodd Mychael Danna 1:38
13 "I Owe You Nothing" Nicholas Dodd Mychael Danna 1:14
14 "Piano for Amelia/Announcement of Battle" Nicholas Dodd Mychael Danna 3:11
15 "Time to Quit Brussels" Nicholas Dodd Mychael Danna 2:37
16 "Waterloo Battlefield" Nicholas Dodd Mychael Danna 1:28
17 "Amelia Refuses Dobbin/The Move to Mayfair" Nicholas Dodd Mychael Danna 2:03
18 "Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal" Custer Larue Mychael Danna 2:45
19 "Steyne the Pasha" Nicholas Dodd Mychael Danna 1:11
20 "El Salaam" Hakim Mychael Danna 1:33
21 "The Virtue Betrayed" Nicholas Dodd Mychael Danna 0:38
22 "Rawdon's End" Nicholas Dodd Mychael Danna 0:46
23 "Dobbin Leaves Amelia" Nicholas Dodd Mychael Danna 1:06
24 "Vanity's Conqueror" Nicholas Dodd Mychael Danna 1:13
25 "Gori Re (O Fair One)" Richa Sharma, Shankar Mahadevan Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy 4:26


Year Award Category Recipient Result
2004 Venice Film Festival Golden Lion Mira Nair Nominated
2005 Satellite Award Best Art Direction and Production Design Maria Djurkovic and Tatiana Macdonald Nominated
Best Costume Design Beatrix Aruna Pasztor Won
London Critics Circle Film Awards British Supporing Actress of the Year Eileen Atkins Nominated


  1. ^ Cook, Emma (14 January 2005). "Hunter The Fox". London Evening Standard. 
  2. ^ Vena, Jocelyn (April 18, 2011). "Robert Pattinson Says Playing Reese Witherspoon's Love Interest Was 'Bizarre'". MTV. Retrieved July 26, 2011. 
  3. ^ Ryan, Mike (April 22, 2011). "Is Robert Pattinson on Team Jacob in Water for Elephants? (and 24 Other Urgent Questions)". Vanity Fair. Retrieved July 26, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Muir, John Kenneth (2006). Mercy in Her Eyes: The Films of Mira Nair. Applause. pp. 208–20. ISBN 978-1-55783-649-6. 
  5. ^ Kent Film Office (August 31, 2004). "Kent Film Office Vanity Fair Film Focus". 
  6. ^ "Vanity Fair (2004 film): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2008-02-21. 
  7. ^ Hunter, Stephen (September 1, 2004). "'Vanity Fair': The Empire, Richly Painted". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 27, 2010. 
  8. ^ Movie: Vanity Fair[dead link]
  9. ^ Frank Connor (September 1, 2004). "Movie Review: Vanity Fair". Entertainment Weekly. 
  10. ^ "The Indian melody in Vanity Fair". Retrieved 2011-07-01. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ Jerry McCulley (2004-08-31). "Vanity Fair soundtrack review". Celtic Instruments. Retrieved 2011-07-01. 
  13. ^ Other reviews by Brian McVickar (2004-09-15). "Vanity Fair Soundtrack". SoundtrackNet. Retrieved 2011-07-01. 

External links[edit]