Mixed or average reviews - based on 41 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 16 out of 41
  2. Negative: 3 out of 41
  1. 100
    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.
  2. Witherspoon's simply terrific, and it's amazing how quickly and easily she sheds speculation that she was too modern for the role.
  3. A triumph for its director and its star.
  4. Graced with Nair's loving direction, Witherspoon's radiance and that great cast, it is a treat, if somewhat less so than the novel.
  5. Nair and screenwriters Matthew Faulk, Mark Skeet and Julian Fellowes have faithfully carried most of the main characters over from the novel but have changed its point of view.
  6. Yet something's missing in director Mira Nair's treatment -- specifically, a point of view about the material, a compelling reason for this historical excavation beyond the fact that Reese Witherspoon makes a convincing Becky Sharp.
  7. 75
    Despite its flaws, the movie is compulsively watchable, and few will be bored by it. It's a charming movie that falls short of greatness, but is still worth a solid recommendation.
  8. Reviewed by: Karen Karbo
    Nair, against all odds, has injected new life into this oft-filmed tale, handily re-creating the grimy look of early 19th-century London streets.
  9. The spirit of that most modern of 19th century heroines, Becky Sharp, remains intact, and Nair's Indian touches make for an intriguing, fresh approach.
  10. Reviewed by: Carina Chocano
    It almost makes you wonder whether Vanity Fair is not the perfect text for a lesson in Buddhist detachment. Certainly, Vanity Fair is a never-ending Western story that benefits from Nair's philosophically Eastern point of view.
  11. Reviewed by: Melissa Levine
    While the film bubbles with humor, sensual detail and heaps of plot, it never quite becomes more than the sum of its parts. It's well worth seeing, but it isn't transcendent.
  12. 70
    Smart, saucy, and ingenious in the extreme. The trouble is that when a subtext is dragged to the fore, however splendidly, the poor old text gets lost.
  13. 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.
  14. The movie 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, pausing here and there to introduce a character, then skipping ahead — from London to the country to Brussels and on, eventually, to India.
  15. 63
    Nair makes Vanity Fair an elegant showcase for an unforgettable heroine.
  16. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Nair's approach never entirely convinces, and the adaptation of the 900-plus-page book becomes increasingly episodic, making this Vanity Fair more a collection of intermittent pleasures than a satisfying emotional repast.
  17. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    Nair and Witherspoon pull back from the ferocity of Thackeray's portrait: they're afraid we won't find Becky Sharp likable enough. Yes, she's the most brilliant, bold and vibrant creature in this social panorama, but she should also be chilling.
  18. Reviewed by: Pete Vonder Haar
    It's by no means a classic, but the dialogue and high caliber of performances mean you’'ll get your money's worth, especially if you're really into empire waistlines and that infamous English haughtiness.
  19. The effect is a bit like watching "Gone With the Wind" with a dumpling substituting for Scarlett O’Hara.
  20. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    There's something about her (Nair) Vanity Fair that doesn't quite work. There is no depth beneath its bright surfaces, no potent emotional undercurrents.
  21. Vanity Fair has a deeper conceptual confusion. In mixing satire and romance, the movie proves once again that the two are about as compatible as lemon juice and heavy cream.
  22. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    It comes as a huge disappointment, then, that having cast Witherspoon as Miss Sharp, director Mira Nair and Oscar-winning screenwriter Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park) were unable to resist that impulse to find 21st-century prototypes in 19th-century literary characters, fictional creations whose values lie not in the way they reflect our own narcissistic times, but the way they reveal so much about their own.
  23. 50
    The pacing feels choppy, and the characters' emotions are sometimes too sudden to be believable. (One exception is Rhys Ifans, affecting as Amelia's long-suffering and neglected suitor.)
  24. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Thackeray said that he wanted "to leave everybody dissatisfied and unhappy at the end of the story." Nair may have had other intentions, but by film's end, audiences are bound to be left dissatisfied with the choppy and confusing storytelling style and unhappy about the missed opportunity.
  25. Reviewed by: Glenn Kenny
    I don’t quite cherish Thackeray’s novel, but a can-do feminist, multicultural contemporization of it strikes me as, well, unnecessary.
  26. 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.
  27. 50
    With more time and a dash more cynicism, the film just might have achieved the thrilling allure of Becky Sharp's perfectly icy heart.
  28. What's missing from this Vanity Fair is the sense of plucky, anything-goes adventurousness that abounds in Thackeray's novel.
  29. Unfortunately, Nair's film doesn't so much end as fall off a cliff, the ultimate victim of viewers' heightened expectations that this briskly paced story will take them someplace -- other than around the block in a horse-drawn carriage.
  30. 50
    In an effort to blend Thackeray and "Sex and the City," Vanity Fair ends up nowhere.
  31. This movie has precious little satirical edge. What is needs is more emphasis on the "vanity" and less on the "fair."
  32. Reviewed by: Joanne Kaufman
    Despite the curry flavoring Ms. Nair has seen fit to add, this is a Vanity Fair without spice.
  33. 40
    Either a radical reinterpretation of the source material or a mammoth failure of nerve. Whichever the case, it makes for a tremendously dull film that gives Witherspoon little to do except pose against a pretty backdrop.
  34. 40
    Turgid, melodramatic travesty of Thackeray's gimlet-eyed satire.
  35. The first half is better than average for an opulent Classics Illustrated film, thanks to realistic period detail, brisk storytelling, and Reese Witherspoon as the saucy rags-to-riches Becky Sharp. Then the whole lumbering weight of the production catches up with the filmmakers, slowing the proceedings to an interminable crawl.
  36. Witherspoon is flavorless, so she emphasizes the screenplay's skimpiness instead of at least partially redressing it.
  37. Reviewed by: Emma Cochrane
    A serious misfire.
  38. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    She has been made lovable -- and 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?
  39. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    I wonder if anything could have made this misfire work.
  40. 10
    There may be filmmakers whose own vision is vast enough to take on Thackeray's, but Mira Nair isn't one of them. Her new film of Vanity Fair is a disaster. Scene by scene and moment to moment, it's a woeful misreading of the book.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 19 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 7 out of 9
  2. Negative: 0 out of 9
  1. IlzeS.
    Jan 8, 2006
    Movie was good, I liked everyone in this movie. I think, it
  2. GregB.
    Nov 8, 2005
    An extravagant and very well acted retelling of Thackeray's masterpiece of EnglIsh manners and mores at the beginning of the 19th century.