Director: Mira Nair
Year Released: 2004
Stodgy adaptation of the Thackeray novel about an A-level manipulator who leapfrogs people and locales in her quest for riches and pleasure; since it's a satire of social climbing, she never gets her comeuppance, and grins her way through highs and temporary lows. Aside from miscasting Reese Witherspoon in the lead role, Nair doesn't know where to take all this, delighting in the lead character's reliance on stereotypically 'masculine' traits like self-assurance and the use of Machiavellian social tactics but neglects to include anyone opposite her that's remotely human - her counterparts range from the pathetic (Bob Hoskins) to the slimy (Gabriel Byrne). So often these costume dramas are literally handcuffed by their devout attention to surface detail that they neglect making the rest of it with depth and complexity - the fusion of both elements in Kubrick's Barry Lyndon looks even more impressive in retrospect.