Saturday, January 25, 2014

Easy Virtue (2008) [PG-13] ***+

Larita (Jessica Biel) is a racing car driver, a glamorous Roaring Twenties American with a dark, mysterious past. Having just finished first in the 1928 Grand Prix of Monte Carlo, Larita catches the eye of the much younger John Whittaker (Ben Barnes), a wealthy Englishman. Impulsively they get married, and after a short honeymoon they travel to the stately Whittaker mansion in the English countryside so Larita can meet John's eccentric family.

Although John's two sisters Hilda and Marion (Kimberly Nixon and Katherine Parkinson) find Larita quite intriguing, John's mother, Veronica Whittaker (Kristin Scott Thomas), takes an immediate dislike to Larita, and does her best to sabotage the newlyweds and rid the family of her son's shockingly modern bride. Larita understands Veronica's wicked game and realizes that she must fight back if she is going to hold onto her husband. Soon sparks are flying and a hilarious battle of wits ensues as Larita and Veronica try to outsmart each other. Interestingly, John's father, Mr. Whittaker (Colin Firth) accepts Larita, and the two develop a bond based on their shared love of motorcycles and the flouting of social convention.

Easy Virtue is based on a Noel Coward play, and was first adapted by Alfred Hitchcock in 1928 as a silent film of the same name: Easy Virtue. Directed and co-written by Stephan ElliottEasy Virtue is the pinnacle of the British comedy of manners, and combined with a stellar ensemble cast, the result is a period film that is both slyly clever and well crafted, although some viewers may find it rather staid, understated and slow-moving. Biel, Firth and Scott Thomas deliver their barbed dialogue with wonderful comedic timing. Direction is stylish, costumes and sets are gorgeous and the soundtrack is delightful, with both period songs and Jazz Age arrangements of modern songs. If you enjoyed De-Lovely and Gosford Park, I predict you will also enjoy Easy Virtue. 

Labels: comedy, romance    
Internet Movie Database    
Metacritic 58/100    
RottenTomatoes Averages (critics=58, viewers=62)    

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