WHAT IT'S ABOUT?
Based on Noel Coward's 1928 play and set in that period, Easy Virtue is about John Whittaker, a young Englishman who falls madly in love with a flamboyant American woman named Larita, whom he immediately marries and brings home to meet his stuffy, all-airs English family. What ensues is a battle of wits that turns to war between the visiting yank and her new mother-in-law, who is determined to prove to her son that he has made an egregious mistake.
WHO'S IN IT?
Jessica Biel takes a flying thespic leap and holds her own in the middle of a sterling cast of fine British talent as Larita, the feisty young wife of a naïve young man who has fallen head-over-heels in love with her and expects his stuffy upper-crust family to fall in line. Biel is a delight as this thoroughly modern miss and shows she can adapt to the witty rhythms of Noel Coward's rapid-fire repartee with the best of 'em. And the best of 'em includes the wonderfully talented and woefully underrated Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient) as the doubting Mrs. Whittaker, who doesn't quite welcome the American intruder with open arms. Thomas' performance is reminiscent of the haughty English societal roles she began her career with, but she adds a dollop of vinegar to this one and appropriately glams down for full effect. Ben Barnes (The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian) is at once smitten and perplexed as the impressionable new groom, while the ever-reliable and appealing Colin Firth steals it all as his cynical and dour father, the only other family member who sees the spark in Larita.
Shot entirely in some stunning stately mansions in the environs around Berkshire and Cambridgeshire, Easy Virtue expertly captures the flavor of a sophisticated late-'20s British romp. The fresh and inspired casting of Biel in her first English foray should also find contemporary audiences responding. Although he occasionally opens things up a bit (including a very funny fox hunt), director Stephen Elliott wisely lets his cast take center stage with Coward's constant zingers and spicy dialogue.
There's nothing really new here that will make you go, "Wow." Though it's all "been there, seen that," Easy Virtue is still done with verve and style. It's a hoot for those who miss this kind of theatrical experience on the big screen.
When the others have retired to the patio, Biel's character accidentally sits on Mrs. Whittaker's prized little pooch, sadly squashing the poor little bugger to death. Her subsequent Lucy-esque attempts to cover up the crime are slapstick, silly fun, giving Biel the opportunity to display the kind of comic chops she didn't get to show opposite Adam Sandler and Kevin James in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?
Netflix. The widescreen cinematography is nice to look at, but this little trifle will play just fine at your own estate.
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 stars.