Vanity Fair (2004)

A bizarrely wasted opportunity.
Since Mamoulian's Becky Sharp (1935), a transcendent piece of cinema but more of a cook's tour of the novel than a thorough adaptation, Thackeray's satire on eighteenth-century social climbing has been curiously ignored by movie-makers. This handsome effort to correct the omission emerges as a near-miss, but one that falls by design, not accident.
The hardware and software are all up to par: costumes, sets and locations (including my beautiful Bath, the great bacon-saver of pre-plastic age London location scouts) are all top drawer, as are the cast for the most part, including Reese Witherspoon, sporting a commendable English accent borrowed from Helena Bonham Carter in the lead. But all is undercut by the all-female production team's insistence on making Becky a noble victim of circumstances and admirable triumpher over adversity (a decision that makes a travesty of the original and leaves Becky a vastly less interesting and remarkable heroine) and, more eccentrically, by the director's self-indulgent obsession with India.
For the time being, Miriam Hopkins remains unrivalled.