A lighthearted adaptation of a Noel Coward play set in the late 1920s, Easy Virtue
stars Jessica Biel as Larita, an adventurous American who marries John, the naive, British heir (Ben Barnes) to a crumbling family estate. Whisked into the less-than-receptive bosom of John's kin, Larita soon finds herself drawing the scorn of her mother-in-law (Kristin Scott Thomas), who would have preferred John marry a longtime sweetheart from his own genteel community rather than a brash Yankee. Eager to move to London, Larita knows the longer a post-honeymoon John visits his family the harder it will be for the newlyweds to live on their own terms, and she's right. Giving up on any notion of fitting in, Larita suffers a few embarrassments before fighting back. But nothing can help her once a past scandal encroaches on her dream of happiness.
Co-writer and director Stephan Elliott (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
) keeps everything breezy and fun, though the clashes between Larita and her malicious mother-in-law are keenly felt. Elliott's period sensibility is very strong, not least of all his appreciation of John's father (Colin Firth), a restless intellectual and member of the so-called Lost Generation of World War I veterans. Firth's performance as a man distanced from his family's preoccupations and material woes is a real highlight of Easy Virtue
. When he dances a tango, late in the story, one can see years of repressed desire erupt in him. --Tom Keogh
United Kingdom released, PAL/Region 2 DVD: LANGUAGES: English ( Dolby Digital 5.1 ), English ( Subtitles ), WIDESCREEN (2.35:1), SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Featurette, Interactive Menu, Making Of, Photo Gallery, Scene Access, Trailer(s), SYNOPSIS: "Easy Virtue," Stephan Elliott's carbonated screen adaptation of an early NoŽl Coward play, is so intent on sustaining a facade of fizzy effervescence that it incorporates bouncy period-style versions of songs by Coward and Cole Porter as a peppy running soundtrack. One character, John Whittaker (Ben Barnes), a dewy English upper-class twit who brings his glamorous, somewhat older new American wife, Larita (Jessica Biel), home to meet his poisonous family, is so enamored of the songs that snippets of the lyrics seep into his dialogue. "Easy Virtue" follows the travails of Larita, a brash, beautiful, widowed race-car driver from Detroit whom John meets in Monaco and impulsively marries. John's mother, Veronica (Kristin Scott Thomas), is predisposed to loathe her new daughter-in-law. And from the moment Larita steps out of John's BMW roadster onto the Whittaker estate, she campaigns for Larita's undoing. In its cold-eyed assessment of the English aristocracy "Easy Virtue" has none of the lurking Anglophilia found in Merchant-Ivory movies. SCREENED/AWARDED AT: British Independent Film Awards, ...Easy Virtue