Satire on the greed of the 80's. A Wall Street bondsman and his mistress become involved with a scheming journalist when they take a wrong turn one night. — Genre: Feature Film-Comedy — Rating: R — Release Date: 1-JUN-2004 — M... more »edia Type: DVD« less
Michel D. (michelann) from WALNUT GROVE, MO Reviewed on 5/10/2018...
Wonderful acting from three of the industries best with Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, and Melanie Griffith in fine form. Typically the wealthy seem to have more fun until they step over some invisible line like taking a mistress on a late night drive into some of the most dangerous real estate in New York City.... then the fun begins! Well written acted and directed by the best!
4 of 4 member(s) found this review helpful.
Tell the Critics to Take a Hike, This Is a Fine Film
J. S. Lang | Seminole, FL | 08/06/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"OK, everyone just "knows" that some films are really awful, like Ishtar, The Bonfire of the Vanities, etc. Funny how few people you know who actually saw those films, isn't it? I for one loved this funny, insightful film, and if there was any justice in the world, it would've won Brian DePalma a Best Director Oscar instead of being an albatross around his neck. In case you hadn't noticed, critics are (being human) subject to peer pressure, so when this movie was released in 1990, they acted like a herd of lemmings, all agreeing that it wasn't faithful to Tom Wolfe's novel (as if they had all read it), that it was miscast, etc. Well, I did read the novel, and in fact it is very faithful to the novel, though it improves on it in some ways (the final scene in court is much more satisfying in the movie than in the novel). Aside from that, any movie has to take a few liberties with its source novel (Gone with the Wind eliminated dozens of minor characters and incidents that were in the book, for example). As for miscasting, Hanks probably wasn't the ideal person to play wheeler-dealer Sherman McCoy, but he does well enough, and maybe his schoolboy vulnerability was needed for this character who would be easy to hate. Melanie Griffith does fine as the rich, dopey, randy mistress Maria, though she could've used a little more coaching on her Southern accent. The casting of Bruce Willis as the slimy writer Peter Fallow more than compensates for Hanks, as Willis perfectly captures Wolfe's presentation of this boozy, failed journalist who makes his name as a "compassionate" writer by giving the public the story if wants: heartless rich white guy McCoy injures a poor black kid from the South Bronx.
The truth is, the critics hated this movie because it is so un-PC. Journalists are depicted not as saintly do-gooders out to expose evil, but as selfish, lazy hacks who will gladly twist the facts to give readers a story they like. A black preacher character who is obviously modeled on Al Sharpton must've caused critics to groan, as did several other black characters who are depicted in a bad light. Rather than admit they hated the movie because it offended liberal sensibilities, critics claimed to base their distaste on the movie being unfaithful to the novel and to having some bad casting.
Timing is everything. This movie was released in 1990, a time when the public in general still had a lot of respect for journalists. Between then and now we've had years of talk radio and the Internet to teach us that journalists aren't nearly as objective and righteous as they appear. So I hope this film, so perfect for our skeptical age, in time will achieve status as a cult classic, especially for people who like to thumb their noses at Political Correctness."
The Critics Were WRONG!
Christopher Francis | Newark, DE | 10/26/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was only a young teen when this came out, but I vividly remember all of the scandalous press about how bad it supposedly was. Uh-uh, not true. Before watching it this past weekend, I noticed that almost all of the reviewers who hated it had read the book first and were upset it was so different. Well, I haven't read the book yet, and watched the movie this past weekend. It was just great - a very witty comedy/drama/social commentary of the '80s, not unlike one of my other faves, "Six Degrees of Separation". Melanie Griffith is the best one in this and yes, her southern accent does come and go, but maybe it was intentional - to show her character was a fake @$$ b!tch who couldn't even keep her accent going? Also great to see Kim Cattrall, who has obviously had a boob job since this was made. Charming also is "Sabrina The Teenage Witch"'s Beth Broderick.
I'm going to explain my book/movie difference theory using my all-time favorite movie "Valley of the Dolls" (VOTD) as an example. Yes, I know it (and the book for that matter) is considered trash, but it still proves the point. I saw the VOTD movie first and adored it instantly, so I then rushed out and read the book, which was SO different and had so many more subplots, additional characters, attributed different dialogue to different characters, etc. However, this still ADDED to my movie-going experience by giving me "bonus" footage/scenes to enjoy and supplemet the movie. Had I read the book FIRST, upon seeing the movie, I would've probably been disappointed because I already had preconceived expectations. I think the same rule applies to "Bonfire". It just isn't possible to get all of a full-length novel into a 2 hour movie and unfortunately they have to cast within the Hollywood system (who's hot, who's available, wtc.)... Please don't miss this! When Melanie gets her come-uppance, it is triumphant!"
Good movie with a bad rep
Hopelessly intellectual | Austin, TX | 02/14/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This movie got mercilessly flogged by reviewers when it was released. For that reason, I avoided it all these years. Well, that's what I get for being a sheep. This is actually a very enjoyable film. I'm sure it will continue to offend a lot of people, but what doesn't these days? I did read and like Wolfe's novel, and I really thought this was a faithful film version."
One of the most under-rated films of all time
Hopelessly intellectual | 03/30/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."
De Palma doesn't do straight satire.
Jenny J.J.I. | That Lives in Carolinas | 01/07/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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.
Griffith is great along with Tom even though he didn't win anything his performance is good. Bruce Willis is very funny as an alcoholic reporter who follows this New York scandal, I know we all like Bruce in action movies but he does well on this job. Morgan Freeman really catches your attention as an no-nonsense judge, seem suited to their roles. Really the plot in this movie is odd but watch it you see how it develops and relates to the lifestyles of the characters. I know that Brian DePalma has done better than this but remember many times a novel doesn't do well on the big screen. Again, "The Bonfire of the Vanities" was an '80s story based on a Tom Wolfe bestseller so don't blame Brian he done as good a job possible the cast had plenty of talent and that's why this movie is great and out of the ordinary. "