September 17 - 23, 2004 • Vol. 24 - No. 38

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Vanity Fair:
Even Hundreds of Years Ago,
Vanity was Not Always Fair!

by The Blonde and the Maven
Film Columnists

Vanity Fair is based on William Makepeace Thackeray’s epic novel, Vanity Fair. Unlike other works of fiction during this century, such as Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, which mostly dealt with kind, genteel, yet gossipy people, Thackeray’s novel involves unkind, unsympathetic, and generally cruelly intentioned, genteel people.

Vanity Fair begins with a young English woman, Becky Sharp, portrayed by Reese Witherspoon (Legally Blonde, Cruel Intentions), living in London during the Napoleonic Wars, who strives to rise above her poverty stricken background and climb the social ladder by any means necessary. This includes overt flirting, intelligence, her vocal and piano talents as well as all her feminine charms. Her only friend from boarding school, Amelia Sedley played by Romola Garai, invites Becky to her home for a visit with her family after their graduation. Amelia hopes to play matchmaker between her brother Joseph and Becky. These plans are foiled by Amelia’s own fiancé Captain George Osbourne, a society snob who always looks down on young Becky. After the disappointment of the failed love match, Becky moves on to her first real job as a governess to the young children of Sir Pitt Crawley, played by Bob Hoskins (Enemy at the Gates). Here she meets the love of her life, who is the second son of her employer, Rawden Crawley played by James Purefoy (A Knight’s Tale). So leads Becky into an adventurous life full of joy with Rawden as well as unfair cruelty by the matrons of society. The reoccurring sinister character, the Marquis of Steyne, played by Gabriel Byrne (The Usual Suspects), always seems to mysteriously show up throughout Becky’s life as if he were there to rescue her but, in reality, causes her more pain.
Vanity Fair is a story of a young woman with no social standing in a world that only respects those born into society. Becky Sharp survives all the trials and tribulations of her life using the gifts of beauty, wit, charisma and intelligence with which she was born.

The Blonde: Vanity Fair was like Sense and Sensibility meets Emma meets Gone with the Wind meets Dangerous Liaisons. I don’t want to start off by being catty, but…although Reese did look pretty, didn’t she look a tad chubby?
The Maven: Ummm, Blonde, she was pregnant when she made this film! I think they hid it quite well at that!

The Blonde: So! The question was, didn’t she look chubby? Hello!  Hello! Are you still there? Whatever!  I was quite happy that Reese got to finally show off her acting abilities for a change. I loved the Legally Blonde movies—I live them—but her character was too one-dimensional. In this film, she was able to display a British accent as well as a multi-dimensional character.

The Maven: When I originally read Vanity Fair, I didn’t really enjoy it very much. I wasn’t looking forward to seeing the movie version. I have to thank Mira Nair for directing this movie with a semblance of sympathy for Becky Sharp’s character, unlike in the novel. A feisty feminist long before such a term even existed, Becky admirably tries to obey her cynical strategies but still allows herself to be misled by her heart.

The Blonde: Me too!

The Maven: Yeah, but you’re not conniving. Reese gives Becky the sympathetic nature to carry her character with a moral code that makes for an engrossing and most entertaining heroine.

The Blonde: Wow, you sound like a Becky wanna-be! But my mind takes me in a totally different direction. Here’s a thought that crosses my mind. Why, in the days-of -yore, when woman were expected to be virginal, did they wear those very revealing cleavage-type dresses? They were on show for all to see! Now-a-days, when the world is more sexually liberal, if you wore that busty of a style, you would be gawked at and have people talking behind your boobs, I mean your back.

The Maven: I agree! But how can you be chaste when your chest is displayed on a platter for all to see.

The Blonde: I do? They do? They are? I think your referring to Janet Jackson or perhaps Miss Britney Spears!  

The Maven: Before I wrap this up, I would feel remiss if I neglected to mention the beautiful period-designs created by Beatrix Anina Pasztor.

The Blonde: Is that a man or a woman?

The Maven: Not even going to answer that!  I rate this movie an A and see Oscar possibilities.

The Blonde: Oscar? Oscar? Are you kidding me? You are so easy. It was a lovely little film but Oscar? No!  I too enjoyed Vanity Fair, but rate it a B with no Oscar!
The Maven: Let’s put money on it!

The Blonde: No, you won't pay!  The only Oscar I see here is if we go to the awards wearing Oscar De La Renta gowns!  I suggest you bring some old-fashioned rock candy and throw it into your popcorn to munch on…and may vanity be fair to all of you!

Wicker Park:
Just Remember, Girls, When it Comes to Love,
Don’t Trust Anyone to Deliver Your Messages


This love quad-rangle thriller is the story of a young and handsome Chicago advertising executive, Matthew, portrayed by Josh Hartnett (Hollywood Homicide). He becomes overly obsessed with a woman he sees in a café, believing her to be his long-lost love Lisa, played by Diane Kruger (Troy), who walked out on him two years earlier without any explanation. Although Matthew is presently engaged to yet another woman, his world is now turned upside down. He puts his life as well as a crucial business trip to China on hold. His search puts him on a possible journey of danger when the plot thickens. Matthew unknowingly gets himself involved with a woman calling herself Lisa, as well. It is this so-called Lisa who holds the key to this tangled-up tale. Helping support Matthew in his love-crazed search is his good buddy Luke, who also becomes obsessed with a girl who claims to be an actress. You will be confused, as the director wants you to be. Just stay and follow it and you will begin to understand this mysterious love story.

The Blonde: Wicker Park was like Endless Love meets Pulp Fiction, meets Single White Female, meets Obsession and Serendipity, meets Sliding Doors. This movie was like watching my teenage daughter’s daily crisis love life. I have enough problems of my own with love to have had to deal with all of these nutty characters. Aye Gevault!

The Maven: Believe it or not, this film turns out to be a romance. It starts out as a mystery and goes through many plot twists. Eventually, you get to the core of the movie, which is a true “love story.”

The Blonde: Blah, Blah, Blah!

The Maven: I never found it to be blah!

The Blonde: Oh my gosh! Three quarters of this movie was so blah that I was grateful they finally gave it a storyline. I was praying to have a review to write about. I know the author wanted to keep it a mystery, but this was more of a mystery than where the hurricanes will finally hit, for Pete’s sake!

The Maven: What you saw as blah, I saw as carefulness to draw you in without giving too much away too soon. The suspense was building until I was ready to burst.

The Blonde: No, Maven… that was your bladder…You drank too much diet Coke. One thing I need to talk about. Why is everyone today so darn liberal? Does everyone jump into bed on the almost first date? Why can’t they be good girls like we were? Be more prudish like we were and wait at least for a nice piece of jewelry?

The Maven: Because we never got to date anyone like Josh Hartnett.

The Blonde: I don’t care who the guy is… jewelry is jewelry!

The Maven: Well, some guys are all that and don’t need any jewelry!

The Blonde: Jewelry is jewelry! The rest is just bonus.

The Maven: I have to mention the one scene in the restaurant when Matthew meets his friend’s girlfriend. So much takes place with very few words said that kudos goes to Rose Bryne who plays Alex (Troy) and Josh Hartnett, who acted the hell out of those few words. Mathew Lillard, who plays the best friend Luke, does a great job as an innocent throughout the movie, unlike his previous roles as a buffoon in movies like Scooby Doo.

The Blonde:  Hey, I liked Scooby Doo! Oh, was that the scene when you woke me up to tell me I was snoring?

The Maven: That’s the one!

The Blonde: Yeah, I agree; here’s where it started to pull together and finally get interesting. I felt this movie was very hard to follow with the past, present, and flashbacks all gelling together. I warn you moviegoers, if you pay attention and have patience, it does get to the point that you will enjoy this film. If you have all day!

The Maven: So are you happy now that I ran after you and made you stay for the ending?

The Blonde: No! I missed my pedicure… But at least I have a review!

The Maven: Wicker Park works because all of the actors invest their scenes with emotional realism. I rate this film a solid B.

The Blonde:  Too much realism for my mind…This was one of the few times an ending to a movie saves the film. I rate it a C+ and advise some No-doz   pills and a large cup of Starbucks espresso. They also have a great chocolate-chip cookie and espresso brownie… You'll need it to pay attention to this film…. Enjoy!

The Maven:  Wicker Park reminded me that I have a gift certificate to Pier One. They have great wicker furniture. Let’s go shopping!

The Blonde: I’m there!  I hope our shopping gets to the wicker quicker!

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