Rappaport reveals how Sirk's use of the vanity table is incredibly variegated. In All That Heaven Allows, the vanity table is used to show Jane Wyman's insularity; in Written on the Wind, it's a silent witness to confrontations; in Imitation of Life, it's a platform for confession and self-realization. Whatever the vanity table actually is, Rappaport shows just how malleable objects can be, and when they're in the hands of a skilled director, can become more than just foreground filler.
Vanity Tables is a heartfelt, blessedly non-academic version of mise en scène criticism. By demonstrating, with clips from standbys such as Imitation of Life, All I Desire, and All That Heaven Allows, how vanity mirrors reflect, and amplify, the anguish evinced by disparate female protagonists, Rappaport wittily illustrates why Sirk’s aesthetic is inextricable from the sly political critique smuggled into his weepies.