Easy Virtue

2009-09-17 15:06
Easy Virtue

What it's about:

A young Englishman, John Whittaker (Ben Barnes) is smitten with a glamorous American woman, Larita (Jessica Biel), and they marry. The couple return to his home in the English countryside so she can meet his family but his mother, Mrs. Whittaker (Kristin Scott Thomas) does not take kindly to Larita. She schemes to break down Larita's marriage and rid the Whittaker family of her, while Larita plots sassy counter-attacks. Soon, the marriage starts disintegrating and secrets from Larita's past are revealed.

What we thought:

Jessica Biel is incredibly charming as Larita, a beach-blonde radiant 1920s glamour girl, eager to make her husband proud and fit into the conservative English family. Upon meeting her mother-in-law, Veronica Whittaker, Larita exclaims, "The pleasure is all mine." Mrs. Whittaker replies, "Oh, you're American." And so begins the clash between the post-WW 1 English gentry and the boisterous 1920s generation whose motto was "Let's Misbehave!"

Mrs Whittaker (Kristin Scott Thomas) is the family's matriarch and her determination to maintain control over the homestead, and particularly John's future, makes her completely unlikeable. Easy Virtue could have turned into a protracted mother-in-law joke, but director Stephen Elliot manages to create a film with the focus on two very different societies with conflicting codes of socially acceptable behaviour.

Biel's rendering of the outsider in the family is remarkably witty and zealous. Her marriage to John, played by Ben Barnes, is an unlikely pairing yet the actors bring a sexy edge and fun camaraderie to their on-screen union. We've never seen Biel as a comedienne and she certainly brings the giggles in this movie.

Colin Firth slips easily into the role of Mr. Whittaker, the easy-going family patriarch who spends his days tinkling with cars and drinking himself senseless. One notable scene is his monologue about World War 1 – all his soldiers died and driven by guilt, he escaped to a harem where his wife found him. His speech enlightens the audience about the Whittaker's uncomfortable family dynamic and brings understanding and sympathy about his constant melancholy.

Easy Virtue is a lovely, witty film with smart dialogue and snappy pacing, fuelled with upbeat jazz tracks. Overall, a really fun film to watch featuring a superb cast and smartly timed humour.

American spirit and English manners collide to delightful effect in this sumptuous costume romance, starring Jessica Biel.

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