Bathonians who forget how beautiful Bath is, will have their senses reawakened by Vanity Fair. Smoky glimpses of Beauford Square and panoramic vistas of a crowded Great Pulteney Street combine to create a beautiful illusion of Thackeray’s London. We are tantalised by the question, ‘Is this how our city was, then…full of noise, movement and interior colour?’ The film is costume drama at its most sumptuous, from its dark, melodic haunting introduction, with swirling fabric, to the exuberant Indian spice colours of later scenes.
Director Mira Nair explores worlds where cultures collide. In this view of post-colonial England, India is ever-present and feels as close as Bristol. This repackaging of the story will appeal, not only to modern multi-cultural Britain, but also to present day moralists. Reese Witherspoon, as Becky Sharpe is a modern heroine, garnering our sympathy from the very beginning. Her witty, irreverent character pulls us through the film, just as Becky tugs her little trunk behind her.
Rhys Ifans is warm and loveable as dissolute gambler, Rawdon Crawley. Gabriel Byrne is a dark, almost Satanic Marquis of Steyne and local Bath beauty, Romola Garai plays sentimental Amelia Sedley with more vivacity and force than Thackeray’s original.