Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bonfire of the Vanities: Check Your Arrogance At The Door

The three principles of  Bonfire of the Vanities.
L-R: Peter Fallow (Bruce Willis), Maria Ruskin
 (Melanie Griffith), Sherman McCoy (Tom Hanks).
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

                      Bonfire of the Vanities: Check Your Arrogance At The Door


                                                                      Jay Agan

      Sherman McCoy (Tom Hanks) is a MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE! And he KNOWS it. You do too. If you don't .....

      Ruler of all he surveys. Master mind of Wall Street. Always at the top of his game, invincible. Has a more than lovely wife & daughter. Owns a beutiful Manhattan town house apt. Luxury is common to him & he wants for nothing. He even has a high maintenance mistress (Melanie Griffith).

      A bungled call to her (He inadvertantly calls his own home & his wife wonders who Maria is.) sets off a chain of events leading to ruin & redemption. How it unfolds, thereby hangs a tale.

      The Bonfire of the Vanities has something to offend everyone. "Guilty" liberal/arrogant conservative whites, exploiters of ethnic minority interests, feminists, media locusts, people in general, and of course, the lowest of the low ..... lawyers & politicians. These forces conspire to bring poor Sherman down. Close in on him to devour him like a pack of hyperthyrodic piranas. Why? Perhaps they must, but it mainly is because they can.

      It is made quite clear in the picture early on, the Bronx D.A. is up for re-election & that a white scapegoat is needed for a high profile case in order to pander to minority votes & special interests. And Sherman's the "lucky" one as an incident on a dark street wherin a youth is run over (Mistress Maria was driving the car.), expands into the court case of the century. Circumstances beyond his control, Hanks' character loses not only family, profession, wealth, success ..... but also his illusions & arrogance (Some have thought Hanks played a more sympathetic character than the one in the Tom Wolfe book.). It is later stated, that Sherman (Off camera.) has found new self respect & redemption as a result.

      In a twist only possible in a "convoluted" legal system, Sherman commits counter-perjury against his turncoat squeeze (She said he drove the car.) in order for the truth to come out. With a tape of her admission played before a breathless courtroom he claims he made the recording himself making it seem like admissable evidence (The machine was planted by rent control authorities for investigative purposes in exposing of illegal subletting in the apartment Maria shared.).

      The spectacle is mostly viewed & narrated by Peter Fallow (Bruce Willis) a down on his luck reporter who originally fanned the public flames against Sherman and later feeling remorse over having helped put him in such a horrendous situation.

      One of my guages as to how good a flick is is audience reaction. I noticed many of the mixed audience I was in were, in many parts of the film, nodding & shaking their heads ..... & smiling ..... with "been there, seen that" looks on their faces.

      This film was panned by the critics. Guess it hit too close to home for some of them. I like to think "critics" (A form of media locust.) have no effect on me but they do. If they say "don't see it", I probably will.

      By the way. This film makes for a sorta kinda "companion piece" to How To Murder Your Wife.

                                        Article copyright © 8-24-2011 Jay Agan

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