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by bangitout’s second favorite mother of twins, Laura Levin Schreiber


Vanity Fair (2004)

Reese Witherspoon, like her character Elle Woods in Legally Blond, is warm, engaging, beautiful, and fabulous in every way. Even with dark brown hair for her upcoming role as June Carter Cash in the upcoming Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line, she looked how most of us would after appearing on Extreme Makeover. Witherspoon explained that one of the primary reasons that she enjoyed this role is because she always feels a personal responsibility with how she represents women. In Vanity Fair, Witherspoon presents a complex character beautifully, even when her character’s choices vastly depart from her own values.

In the film, based on William Makepeace Thackeray’s classic novel, Reese plays Becky Sharpe, an extremely astute and ambitious social climber who has the ability to fit in and become the center of attention whether she is in the back cart of a stage coach or at a society ball. She has a way with men and uses her feminine whiles to her advantage throughout the film. Witherspoon, who was pregnant at the time, uses her physical condition and revealed at the press conference that she was perfectly comfortable with her body, even during intimate love scenes. Witherspoon explained that she felt that the director, the celebrated Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding), was so concerned with revealing the beauty of the feminine form and with an artistic presentation that she remained comfortable throughout. Further, she thought that revealing her own body in such a way helped her character to seem more vulnerable. Becky, orphaned as a young girl, is able to rise from her setting and make the most of her innate virtues, seeming anything but vulnerable most of the time.

Q&A with Reese Witherspoon!

Q: When did you stop being called Laura, your given name?

A: I have been called Reese since I was a baby.

From the beginning of the press conference, there had been much discussion of the multi-dimensionality of all the characters, Becky in particular. While in one scene the audience might seriously question Becky, in the next you feel compelled to like her, or, at least to sympathize with her.

Q: How do you compare with Becky in that we do not know what Becky valued more, romantic love or friendship with her only female friend?

A: Becky was me, me, me! I allowed myself and her to bond until we were an intertwined personality during filming. Whatever suited Becky better on a given day is what she would choose.

After Reese said that, I thought about the movie and how in one scene she would certainly put the love of her husband above all else, even her own comfort and emotional stability. Then, in the next, she might jeopardize her own security to aid a friend. This made me wonder then, how a person, who could so quickly reorganize her priorities, would be rated as a mother.

Q: What kind of motherly sacrifices did Becky make and how did you relate as a mother?

A: Becky chooses to abandon her children in order to live her own life. Mira and I discussed this many times and we were trying to reconcile the choices she made. It was certainly a point of contention. In the end we decided that the character was really motivated by self interest. Of course I, as a mother, cannot relate. There were many aspects of Becky’s character that I could relate to, but that was just too far of a reach.

When I saw this film, I cried and cried. There are so many ways that a film that is set in Victorian England resonates with our lives today. In addition to covering timeless themes, such as love, lust, money, indulgence, and yearning, the film leaves you pondering how you handle it when you aggressively pursue something that you think that you really want and then, once you get it, you realize that the consequences don’t suit you at all. While this film is certainly just as good as others in its genre, including Sense and Sensibility and the Importance of Being Earnest, it is far more dramatic and certainly captures the social upheaval of historically significant events such as the invasion of Brussels and the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The film is aesthetically enticing, with beautiful lighting, exquisite costumes, and complimentary music. In fact, Witherspoon even does a good amount of singing which she admitted was her biggest challenge in the film.

While there were several cultural anachronisms, such as obviously modern hair and music and dancing that just don’t quite fit the period of which they are supposed to be products, the movie is wonderful. Several of the dancing scenes seemed odd and out of place. At the press conference it was mentioned that Nair hired a Bollywood choreographer and dance troop to do these scenes. If the biggest error the filmmaker concedes are the glaring French grammatical mistakes that Becky Sharp perpetrates in an early scene when she is instructing her young pupils, than this movie should not be one to miss. Ultimately, we find ourselves grappling with questions, such as does true love conquer all and wondering who Becky truly loved more.

Admittedly, I am always curious about the way women publicly and privately relate to each other. The line from Vanity Fair that left me thinking the most was when the Marquess of Steyne (Gabriel Byrne) told Becky it is “Women who keep the doors of society closed.” It left me wondering if women are struggling as a cohesive unit in a man’s world, or, if in spite of our common struggle, we remain divided, and struggle not just for our own well-being, but also to overcome the challenges imposed by those that we should be closest to but are instead always measuring ourselves against?

Send all comments to movie rav jordan hiller at


Reviews by Jordan Hillerrr

Vanity Fair

Door in the Floor

Before Sunset

Spider-Man 2

White Chicks

The Day After Tomorrow

Super Size Me


Never Die Alone

Eternal Sunshine 

The Passion  


Hiding and Seeking:  Faith and Tolerance after the 


The Ten Best Films of 1993 

The Statement

Big Fish

Hebrew Hammer

Forget Baghdad

The Missing

Master and Commander

Kill Bill

Trembling Before G-d


Veronica Guerin

Pieces of April


Bubba Ho-tep

Casa De Los Babys


American Splendor


The Holy Land

Return from India

The Shape of Things

City of Ghosts

Anger Management


The Guys

Assassination Tango

Gaudi Afternoon


Nowhere in Africa

Foreign Sister


L’chayim, Comrade Stalin
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part 2


Divine Intervention

The Pianist

Best films of 2002 1992

8 mile

Punch Drunk Love


Gaza Strip

The Kid Stays in the Picture


Minority Report



Spring Movie Preview 2002

Panic Room

The Oscar Preview 2002

Royal Tenenbaums

Harry Potter

The Man who Wasn't There

From Hell

Training Day

Hearts in Atlantis

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

the others

Planet of the apes

Jurassic Park III


Shrek & Atlantis

The Mummy Returns

Enemy At the Gates


Exit Wounds

15 Minutes

You Can Count on Me

The Mexican

Down to Earth

Meet the Parents

Golda's Balcony HERE

Tribeca FIlm Festival 2004

Photo Gallery HERE

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Coffee and Cigarettes

Super Size Me


The United States of Leland


Tribeca FIlm Festival 2003

Daily Coverage: HERE

Photo Gallery HERE

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Every Child is Born a Poet: The Life and Work of Piri Thomas

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Resisting Paradise

MC5: A True Testimonial

Sweet Sixteen

The Shape of Things

Yossi and Jagger

Persona Non Grata

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