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The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990)

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Concept: The film of the book.

Tom Wolfe's first novel was a huge critical and commercial success. In 1980s New York, a young man is killed in a hit and run. The authorities are barely interested until it turns out that a 'master of the universe' bond trader is involved. The prospect of having such a defendant creates a frenzy, involving the media, politicians and justice system. How guilty is he? A bit – he was in the car with his mistress – but will that be enough?

What's good: The cinematography is great.

Outside the lead characters, the performances are all very good.

What's not so good: It makes the typical Hollywood mistakes of trying to making the major characters nice and adding a happy ending.

Neither Tom Hanks (as the bond trader) or Melanie Griffith (as the mistress) are particularly good.

There's plenty of cynicism, but to be faithful to the book, there needs to be an awful lot more.

Music: Any soundtrack involving a chunk of Don Giovanni cannot be all bad.

Miscellany: Infamously, Melanie Griffith had a breast enlargement operation in the middle of the shoot. Somewhere there is doubtless a site detailing which of her scenes have the old and new breasts.

Overall: A critical and box office disaster, it deserved better.

So did the book and most of the problem is that it is clearly not as good as the book – as ever, you want to see the film before reading it.

If it had been an original screenplay, it would have had a better reception, because the good bits are very good. Again, its problem is that the book's great and very good wasn't enough at the time.

TL;DR Better than you've been told

Film: 3.5/5
DVD: 2/5

Nothing beyond the film. It deserves better.

Written by Ian

November 28th, 2012 at 11:16 pm

Posted in Cinema,DVDs

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