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The Bonfire of the Vanities

Tom Hanks , Bruce Willis , Brian De Palma    R (Restricted)   DVD
2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
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The 1980s were wearing thin when Tom Wolfe delivered this biting commentary about the shallowness of an investment banker in a messed-up place called New York City. Sherman McCoy knows how to make a lot of money. But that's about it. He is oblivious to his wife, his daughter, even his mistress, and shows little interest even in the deeper machinations of business. His focus is on the surface, and when he makes a mistake, it seems that all the dark forces he was so ignorant about circle like a pack of wolves. As usual, Wolfe writes ferociously, showing no favorites among the rich, the poor, the black,or the white and painting each with at least one absurd stroke. The novel is both hilarious and telling, delivered in a distinctive voice by Wolfe, one of our top stylists.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars De Palma doesn't do straight satire Feb. 7 2008
By Jenny J.J.I. TOP 500 REVIEWER
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 I'm pretty much ignorant as to whether or not the screen version succeeds or fails in living up to its story's potential. 'The Bonfire Of The Vanities' is a good 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 Wolfe's novel of the same name.

This movie is played on the borderline "tragedy and comic" the result, in my opinion, is a very interesting mix of ironic situations. Sherman McCoy (Tom Hanks) is on top of his game and is the top dog in one of the top financial firms in the city. He has money in spades, a socialite wife, a Park Avenue apartment, a mistress and a very nice car. While out with that same mistress Maria (Griffith) in that same expensive car, Sherman takes a wrong turn and ends up in the Bronx where, in a moment of panic at being confronted by crowds of African Americans, Maria suddenly hits a black man and they drive off back to normal white society. Sadly for Sherman, this minor incident escalates when the boy goes into a coma and his car is identified as the one involved, Add to this a DA who desperately needs to win the ethnic vote by prosecuting a rich white person and a journalist who, desperate to get off skid row, talks up the story with a series of sensationalist headlines that twist the truth. As these factors all come into play, Sherman's tidy, rich, world starts to crumble.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Really a good film. Sept. 20 2002
I too must get on the bandwagon and say THIS IS NOT A BAD MOVIE. Not great, certainly, but a very entertaining one. When this movie first came out, I think too many people (critics) compared it to the book which was a disservice to the film. Seeing it now, we thought it was quite entertaining (two friends joined me) and Tom Hanks and Melanie Griffith were a good match. I would recommend this film to anyone. Maybe time is on its side.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Let's set the record straight! April 13 2004
This is a good movie! Forget about the miscasting quibbles about Tom Hanks. He does an amiable job with Sherman McCoy. If one wants to nit-pick, Bruce Willis was the odder casting choice for the drunken british journalist Peter Farrow. Melanie Griffith is perfect as Maria and the rest of the cast does just fine. The directing is handled with De Palma's usual blend of exellence and professionalism. The movie looks like a million dollars with fantastic cinematoghraphy by Vilmos Zsigmond (The opening title sequence is breathtaking!) It seems to me that the problem is that this is based on a beloved book that was on everybody's coffee table and book shelf in the 1980's and everyone had thier own preconceived notions about who should star. Maybe Hanks is too likable in the film as Sherman but having not read the book until after I saw the movie, I was thoroughly swept away by the plot and it's cast. It seems that critics were all set to destroy this film based on the casting announcements alone and De Palma could have made any variation of the book and it still would have taken a beating. Watch it with an open mind and enjoy. For crying out loud gang, it's only a movie. And a fine one at that. Give it a chance.
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5.0 out of 5 stars one of the most under-rated films of all time March 30 2004
By A Customer
Next to Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate, David Lynch's Dune, and Francis Ford Coppola's One From the Heart, Brian De Palma's Bonfire of the Vanities is a savagely under-rated film. De Palma once again demonstrates he is a master of wit. The film was initially criticized, or rather misinterpreted, for being somehow 'lightweight.' If anything, the film is over-the-top! De Palma's choice for lavish sets and stunning cinematography (by vilmos zsigmond) in wall street upper class New York perfectly match the subject matter and commentary on the 1980s greed infested 'me' decade and Reagan/Bush era, adapted from Thomas Wolfe's popular novel. Critics howled that the film downplayed Wolfe's themes...people act like Tom Wolfe, albeit a talented writer, is somehow as deep as James Joyce or something. The message of the book is pretty darn simple people! and it translates very obviously, perhaps even too obviously, in the film. Not to mention the fact that film is a totally different medium than literature, and one should not expect a film to be exactly like the book. as for the miscasting criticism, it is true Hanks doesnt exactly perfectly fit the role of McCoy, but he doesnt take away from the movie. The supporting cast, however, is better than him. Griffith is fantastic, and Willis gives a performance that practically carries the movie. I think this film was very ambitious and ahead of its time, and will in the future eventually be recognized as a very good film.
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1.0 out of 5 stars UGGGGHH!.. April 26 2003
This was, without a doubt, the worst movie I ever suffered all the way through in a movie theater (I walked out on Jodie Foster's "Hotel New Hampshire"). From what I understand, this film doesn't do the book justice, but I never read the book. All I know is that a movie should be made to hold one's interest, even those who didn't read the book. The script was roundly uninteresting, and hard to follow, to boot. And the acting... What acting?? This is the worst work of Tom Hanks' illustrious career. It must pain him, to be reminded of it. And Bruce Willis is as stiff as a cardboard cutout. To say that he has all the acting skill of a mannikin, would be an insult to mannikins everywhere! If Melanie Griffith's acting is the best thing you have to hang your hat on, you don't have much to speak of. I have always thought that Melanie's looks, facial expressions, and sympathetic voice were the best things about her acting. She has proven to be rather one-dimensional. Still, she deserved better than this, and it seems that her career is the one that suffered the most from being associated with this stinker.... For "The Bonfire of the Vanities" to AVERAGE out to a 3 stars, should tell you all you need to know. Avoid this one, or you'll be sorry... If, that is, you can stay awake through it.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars No, the criticisms are spot on
A few people have attempted to exonerate this rather tragic adaptation of Tom Wolfe's classic novel of 1980s New York and have explained their reasons. Read more
Published on Dec 12 2007 by Sam Findlay
5.0 out of 5 stars Woefully underestimated!
I picked up this movie for only $1 at a local rummage sale without knowing anything about it. I have since watched my VHS copy so many times that it finally stopped playing. Read more
Published on April 16 2004 by R. Cecil
4.0 out of 5 stars This Bonfire Burns Bright
Great movie: it is funny and tragic at the same time. All of the bad reviews stem from one fact only, and that is, the brutal, unvarnished portrayal of liberal race politics. Read more
Published on March 18 2003 by unraveler
5.0 out of 5 stars AWESOME!
Make no mistake. If you are thinking about buying this movie, do not think, just buy. It is laughs from start to finish. Read more
Published on Jan. 12 2003 by james j sitterly
1.0 out of 5 stars This is a bad film
It just doesn't work as a film, and it doesn't work as the adaptation of the book. As a film it lacks characterisation - the director doesn't do the work establishing the... Read more
Published on Oct. 28 2002 by Matthew Bain
4.0 out of 5 stars Much better than I expected.
After all the horrible reviews when this film first came out, I steered clear of it. I recently watched it and I can see where some of the criticisms are well deserved. Read more
Published on Sept. 5 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars An extra star for being unfairly maligned
OK, so it's not exactly the same experience as reading Tom Wolfe's wonderful novel, but who would expect a movie to be a perfect reflection of a book? Read more
Published on April 13 2002 by pm444
4.0 out of 5 stars A dead tire?
That's about all it took for Sherman McCoy's life to change. A tire. Lost in the Bronx with his lover Maria, McCoy ends up in an alley, gets out of the car to move a tire out of... Read more
Published on Feb. 26 2002 by Cutre
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