An outrageous story of greed, lust and vanity in America
Brian De Palma
Running Time: 125 minutes
UK Certificate: 15
Country: United States
Its fairly obvious upon watching The Bonfire Of The Vanities that this is a decent film: nothing more, nothing less. So why, then, was it so universally slated by critics at the time of its big screen release? The answer, it would seem, is the overwhelming popularity of the piece of literature it was based on, Tom Wolfes novel of the same name.
Personally, I watched the movie without having read the book, which could be seen as both a good and a bad thing. On one hand, it allows me to judge the film as exactly that a film, with no other conflicting point of reference to cloud my opinions. On the other, it means Im pretty much ignorant as to whether or not the screen version succeeds or fails in living up to its storys potential.
Bruce Willis is our narrator as sozzled journo Peter Fallow. In order to save a career vanishing swiftly down the U-bend, he takes on the story of Sherman McCoy (Tom Hanks), a Wall Street Master of the Universe whos inadvertently become a pawn in the racially-charged game of local politics. You see, while out driving one night with his bit-on-the-side Maria (Melanie Griffith), Shermans car mows down a black youth, making him a perfect scapegoat for scheming politicians looking for a successful white man to make an example of. But, as Fallow soon discovers, Sherman isnt as guilty as everybody wants him to be.
So, youve guessed it this is satire. Practically every character in the film has their own vested interests: the black community want to see this white man banged up, the politicians want their votes, Fallow wants the exclusive, and it looks like the only way for the real truth to come out is for Sherman to lie. Its a clever story, not always particularly well-told by director Brian De Palma, but nonetheless interesting to watch unfold.
My main criticism of it would be that, perhaps surprisingly given the names involved, too many of the characters are mis-cast. Hanks never comes across as either ruthless or cunning enough to be the high-flyer were supposed to take him as, Kim Cattrall displays some horrendous over-acting as his embittered spouse, and Willis eventually struggles to hold the attention despite kicking off the movie as one of its most interesting characters. Only Griffith, and Morgan Freeman as a no-nonsense judge, seem suited to their roles.
Granted, this film is far from a classic. But at the same time it hardly seems deserving of the outright vitriol often aimed in its direction. Perhaps its best put down to another example of Hollywood getting it wrong: instead of making adaptations of books everybody loves, why not give the big screen treatment to the rubbish ones? That way the end result can only be an improvement on the original, and everyones happy.
It's Got: A nice analogy about cake crumbs.
It Needs: A good lawyer.
DVD Extras Nothing here. Now THATS something to complain about. DVD Extras Rating: 0/10
A fairly entertaining slice of satire, this really isnt as bad as its often made out to be.